Steps To Take To Prepare Your Home For Sale

Steps To Take To Prepare Your Home For SaleOnce you have decided that you want to put your home up for sale, you should start taking the steps necessary to get it ready to go on the market. While some homes may be almost picture perfect and ready for a showing, there are others that may need some work.

It is always a good idea to evaluate the condition of your home as soon as you know you will be selling. Use these steps to not only determine what you need to do but to also guide you through your home sale preparation. 

Tips To Prepare Your Home For Sale

 

  • Have a home inspection done. Many things can be identified that are cosmetic in nature just by taking a walk around the inside and outside of your home. Often times, the best way to detect underlying problems that you will need to fix before selling your home is to rely on a professional home inspector. This is a great way to know exactly what needs to be improved and to avoid uncovering any surprising, and potentially costly, repairs during the commission of the sale. 
  • Make all necessary repairs. Once you know what needs to be done around the home, you should start prioritizing and making the necessary repairs. Some of the repairs may be costly so creating a budget and a plan of action can help you stay organized and efficient as you make these necessary improvements. 
  • Clean up the yard. If your home has a yard, it should look clean and tidy. You do not need to have the whole yard professionally landscaped but mowing the lawn and removing any unsightly tree limbs or shrubbery will help with the curb appeal and first impression of your property.
  • Clean up the exterior and interior of the home. It is essential that your home is clean and tidy as well so that your real estate agent can take quality pictures that will appeal to the most buyers and for your home to be ready for showings. If you are residing in the property, you should remove any personal effects, such as photos. This can make it easier for potential buyers to imagine this space as their own. You will also want to make sure to avoid clutter including dirty dishes or laundry. The home should not look lived in because you want the viewers to be able to see themselves living in the property. 
  • Consider adding new paint. It is amazing how much of a difference a new coat of paint can do for a property. You may want to consider painting all of the interior rooms as well as the exterior of the home. Fresh paint is an easy way to present a clean, fresh face-lift for your property. Keep in mind that neutral tones in paint color will appeal to the most buyers. 

As you can see, there are quite a few things that need to happen before a property is ready to go on the market. Your trusted Real Estate Professional can guide you through this process and offer additional tips to help you achieve a successful home sale in your area. 

Manage These 3 Items Before Applying For A Mortgage

Manage These 3 Items Before Applying For A MortgageMortgage lenders weigh the risk of getting their principal and interest paid back by looking at the qualities of the prospective borrrower. And due to the amount of money being requested and lent to purchase homes, those requirements can become daunting.  Working with a trusted and qualified mortgage professional makes this sometimes confusing process a little clearer.

To this end, there are three things that a potential homebuyer can do to prepare for the mortgage approval process.

Manage Debt And Credit Levels

For many homebuyers, managing their credit score is the biggest challenge. Mortgage lenders like buyers with strong credit. While getting strong credit usually isn’t something that can be done overnight, paying bills on time, all of the time can help to build a positive profile.

Using as little credit as possible is also helpful, since high utilization of existing credit lines can harm a borrower’s score. Having less debt can also reduce monthly payments, making it easier to qualify for a larger mortgage.

Manage Income And Qualifying Ratios

Lenders look for two things when it comes to a borrower’s income:

  1. Stable incomes are preferred, so being able to prove the income with a W-2 form or other documentation is usually required. Self-employed people will typically need to prove their income with their tax returns, so taking high write-offs can make it harder to qualify.
  2. A borrower’s income should be significantly higher than his total monthly debt payments. Lenders divide a borrower’s monthly payments — including their proposed mortgage — into the gross monthly income. If the payments exceed a set percentage, the lender will shrink the mortgage until it considers the payment affordable.

Collect Required Paperwork Early

To qualify for a mortgage, borrowers typically need to submit a comprehensive file of supporting documentation. This can include tax returns, pay stubs and bank and investment account statements.

Since lenders frequently want some historical data, it can be a good idea for people considering applying for a mortgage to start collecting documentation before they actually begin the mortgage application process. Once again, working with a qualified finance professional will make this process a lot more comfortable.

Solar Roof Panels: A Mainstream Option For Homeowners?

Solar Roof Panels A Mainstream Option For HomeownersDo rooftop solar panels add value to a home, and are they cost-effective in terms of energy savings? The short answer is yes, say the experts. Although more than a million U.S. homes boasted solar panels in 2016, the percentage of solar-equipped households is still miniscule. 

That may change, however, as domestic prices for solar installations continue to decrease and property values rise.

The Pros And Cons Of Solar

While there is global agreement on the need to encourage cost-effective, non-polluting renewable energy sources, it is also acknowledged that solar effectiveness is not equal in all locations or situations. 

Several Southwestern states boast abundant sunshine, a high percentage of roofs that face in the proper direction for solar capture, and high consumption of electricity, including the the need for air conditioning. Experts predict that California could supply 74 percent of its total electrical needs if its roofs were clothed in solar panels.

On the other hand, Nevada, with a much smaller population and a different climate, only has the ability to supply 14 percent of its total need. The truth is that solar is not equally beneficial in all locations.

Solar Costs On Par With Grid Electricity

Even so, according to information provided by the Union of Concerned Scientists, more than half of U.S. states have reached or are close to the point where rooftop solar costs are on par with grid costs for electricity. In areas where utility companies offer net metering, solar producers can return excess energy for credit, which results, in the best of cases, in a monthly electricity bill that is extremely low, perhaps even zero.

Before committing to rooftop solar panels, homeowners should ask some pertinent questions. An investment in solar is still pricey, even though installation costs have dropped by about 50 percent over the past decade. With government incentives of various kinds, the total cost may dip to $10,000 or below for an average size home.

On average, the payback on that initial investment will be long-term, even though monthly savings on electrical bills can be immediate. Panel leasing is a popular option, with no initial down payment required, although the lease term may extend for 10 or even 20 years. Another option in some areas is to invest in a solar farm or cooperative.

Important Questions For Homeowners

Pertinent questions include personal motivation: Are solar panels simply a way to save money or do they demonstrate eco-consciousness and a concern for quality of life? Owners should also consider how long they plan to own a specific home before investing in rooftop panels.

Current data suggests that buyers will pay a premium for solar-equipped homes. A study by Energy Sage confirms that buyers in some states are more “pro-Solar” than other U.S. residents, but notes that the national value boost is around $15,000 for an average solar home, and higher in select locales. That equates to between $3 and $4 per kilowatt of solar power generated.  

Even though the added value is not uniform throughout the country, it is obvious that rooftop solar panels are emerging as mainstream home amenities.

 

 

Best Tax Deductible Home Improvements for Homeowners

Best Tax Deductible Home Improvements For HomeownersBefore delving into tax-deductible home improvements, it’s important to understand that these tax deductions won’t be applied immediately. In most cases, homeowners can only benefit, tax-wise, from their home renovations later, when they sell their home.

It’s important for homeowners to keep receipts for their improvements, though so they have proof of the improvements they made, even if it’s years later when they sell their residence.

Typical Renovations/ Home Improvements That Can Yield Eventual Tax Benefits

A home improvement is any project that substantially adds value to a home. It can include adapting it to be more useful or be improvements that allow it to be used differently. The following are some general home improvements that can yield tax savings when a home is sold for a profit.

  • Room additions.
  • Upgrades to plumbing.
  • Kitchen improvements.
  • A new roof.
  • New bathrooms.
  • Upgraded landscaping.
  • Improvements to fencing.
  • New decks.
  • Improved wiring.
  • New walkways.
  • Driveway improvements.
  • Plumbing upgrades.

How Delayed Tax Benefits Work

While a homeowner can’t take the amount of money they spent on one of the above home improvements and deduct it that same tax year, they can sometimes benefit from the investment in their home. This is true because a homeowner can effectively reduce the amount of taxes they have to pay if they sell their home for a profit down the road.

When an improvement is made, the cost of those improvements are added to the tax basis of a home. The basis is the investment in a home for tax purposes. The greater this number becomes, the less the profit is from selling a home.

The following explains it a little better:

Example Of Tax Basis And Home Improvement Tax Savings

A fictional homeowner purchases their home for $600,000 and sells their home 20 years later for $1,000,000. Their original “profit” from the sale would have been $400,000, which would have been taxable income at the time of the sale. However, throughout the 15 years when they resided in the home, this homeowner made around $60,000 worth of home improvements, including a roof improvement and a kitchen update. The $60,000 is then added to the original investment this homeowner made in their home, bringing their tax basis to $660,000.

The homeowner’s profit when they sell their home is then reduced from $400,000 to $340,000. Many homeowners use home improvements as a way to reduce the amount of taxes they will one day have to pay when they sell their home for a substantial profit.

Other Ways For Homeowners To Benefit From Their Home This Tax Season

Homeowners can make their home work for them each and every tax year by qualifying for the home office deduction. This only works if they own and operate a legitimate business out of their home, though. A part of the home must be used either regularly or exclusively for the business to qualify.

The above is some pertinent information on how homeowners can use home improvements to reduce their tax burden.   As always, check with your trusted tax professional for accurate advice on your personal situation.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 16th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 16th, 2018Last week’s economic reports included readings on inflation, the minutes of the most recent meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee and weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims. The University of Michigan released its Consumer Sentiment Index for April.

Inflation Grows, Fed Indicates Future Rate Hikes Likely

The minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee Meeting held March 20 and 21 indicate Fed policymakers are likely to increase the target federal funds rate at their June meeting. Economic indicators including strong labor markets and low unemployment rate were cited as contributing to expectations for federal rate hikes throughout 2018.

How the Fed moves on interest rates affects private sector interest rates as financial institutions typically follow the Fed’s lead regarding raising or not raising consumer lending and mortgage rates.

FOMC minutes said that members noted increasing consumer credit card balances, but also said that sub-prime borrowers continued to have trouble in getting adequate credit at favorable interest rates.

Mortgage Rates Hold Steady, New Jobless Claims Dip

Mortgage rates were little changed last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to an average of 4.42 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.87 percent.

Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged one basis point higher at 3.61 percent. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims were lower last week with 223,000 claims filed; analysts expected 230,000 new claims filed based on the prior week’s reading of 242,000 new claims filed. In other news, the University of Michigan released its Consumer Sentiment Index with an index reading of 97.8 for April. Analysts expected a reading of 101.8, which was based on the March reading of 101.4

Consumers surveyed were fearful of possible trade wars resulting from recent tariffs on foreign goods; the consumer sentiment index dipped from its March reading of 101.4 to 97.8. Builders have said that tariffs will increase prices on building materials and such increases would drive home prices up.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings on builder sentiment from the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued and readings on retail sales. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Over 5 Trillion Dollars In Home Equity May Lead To More Cash Out Transactions

Over 5 Trillion Dollars In Home Equity May Lead To More Cash Out TransactionsUS homeowners now have over 5 trillion dollars in home equity which is a very large amount of money! So this year may be the year for a lot of cash out refinances and other home equity mortgage products. Most often, when you are purchasing a home, you are buying at or below the appraised value and you are making a down payment.

The good news is this means you have “instant equity” in your home. And over time you build more equity as you make your monthly mortgage payments as well as any potential home price appreciation.

This build up of equity gets some homeowners thinking about taking cash-out from your home to pay off credit card bills, purchase a car or pay for college expenses. However, it is important understand, there are rules as to what can and can’t be done.

Cash out refinance, equity loan or second mortgage

There are three basic ways to access the equity in your home which are common these include:

  • Cash out refinance – you refinance your current mortgage and you request cash-out for the equity. For example, if your home is worth $200,000 and you have a current mortgage of $100,000 you may be able to access an additional $60,000 to $70,000 in cash depending on your lenders requirements
  • Home equity loan – a home equity loan is typically a line of credit that you take out with your local bank. These loans are typically what are known as “revolving” where you can access the funds over and over again as you make payments. Home equity loan interest payments are not tax deductible after the recent tax reform plan
  • Second mortgage – in order to qualify for a second mortgage on your home, the lender would require you to meet specific credit requirements as well as certain debt-to-income ratios. 

In most cases, lenders will require borrowers to have had their mortgage at least one year before they are allowed the option of any type of cash-out refinance. However, Ginnie Mae (GNMA), the investor for FHA and VA home loans allow cash out transactions after 6 monthly payments and a minimum of 210 days in the home.

While you may already have a substantial amount of equity in your home, lenders are taking an additional risk if you are allowed to “tap into” that equity. Before you make the decision to access the equity, talk to your trusted real estate professional regarding possible restrictions.

How The 2018 Tax Changes Can Affect Your Mortgage

How The 2018 Tax Changes Can Affect Your MortgageWhen the chatter was at its peak on the 2018 tax law changes being proposed, one of the big areas of concern for homeowners was the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction. Right behind that issue was a similar treatment with regards to property tax deductions.

As the rumors swirled and Congress moved, many feared both deductions had finally met their day and were going to be entirely eliminated, resulting in a major financial hit that many homeowners and particularly those in high real estate cost states would have felt painfully. As it turned out, there’s no reason to panic or suddenly dump titled real estate just because it has been bought with a mortgage. 

Yes, both issues were impacted by the 2018 tax law changes, but neither the mortgage interest deduction nor the property tax deduction were eliminated entirely. Instead, they were modified.

The changes include:

  • Mortgage interest deduction – the new laws cap the eligible debt to $750,000. While old loans originated prior to the law change date are still eligible up to $1 million, new mortgages created after the enactment date are caught in the lower universe. However, being realistic, most homebuyers are not in the bracket that afford a $750,000 plus priced home except maybe in a few communities such as New York City or the San Francisco/Bay Area in California. So the change basically means business as usual for 9 out of 10 homeowners in the U.S.
  • Real estate property taxes – total state and local taxes eligible for deduction are now capped at $10,000. This is where some homeowners could feel a pinch as a typical home in higher cost states easily generates property tax levels of $5,000 to $7,000 for a $300,000 home. So those units assessed a higher value by tax auditors will likely feel this new limitation take effect.
  • The standard deduction increase – remember, the above items are only useful to the extent that a tax filer itemizes his deductions. With a standard deduction now at $12,000 for an individual and $24,000 for a married couple, filing jointly, the option to itemize could go away entirely if the standard deduction provides a higher level of tax savings overall. And then that makes the above two deductions entirely moot and useless. Of course, it’s not entirely a plus since the personal exemption is also eliminated, thus reducing the benefit of the higher standard deduction by as much as $4,150 per person. In essence, the change is a wash, but could be enough to bar use of itemization, which would hurt greatly.

So the changes did not wipe out any benefit entirely (except the personal exemption). Instead, the real impact depends on which change applies to a specific taxfiler’s situation.

This is why two homeowners in the same town with the same house and market value could end up having very different tax results with the 2018 changes. Because there is so much variance.

As always, work with a trusted tax professional in order to understand how these changes will affect your personal tax situation.

Tips For Home Buying In The Digital Age

Tips For Home Buying In The Digital AgeThe digital age has changed the way buyers browse for and purchase goods and services, including real estate. While home buyers still can check out property listings via a print newspaper or by driving through desired neighborhoods in hopes of finding a “for sale” sign, digital sources offer more options and can make the home buying process easier. 

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) states in their 2017 Report: Real Estate in a Digital Age, that 44-percent of home buyers look online when beginning their search.

Social Media As Sources For Home Buyers

According to the Pew Research Center, 68-percent or two-thirds of U.S. adults use Facebook. In addition to that popular social media site, American adults regularly use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube on a daily basis for entertainment, social engagement, shopping, and news. These sites also can be excellent sources for home buyers.

Home buyers now have instant, easy access to a wide variety of property listings beyond those featured on an individual real estate agency’s website. Many real estate agents post listings on social media with interior/exterior photos and some with virtual tours. Sites like YouTube offer valuable resources particular for first-time home buyers, from tips to how-to’s. 

Real Estate Apps

More than 90-percent of all real estate firms have a website. Visiting these sites are a great starting point and ideal way to connect with an agent that knows the local market. However, home buyers may also consider real estate apps to enhance the process. Even if not tech savvy, these apps are easy to use. 

The most used real estate apps are available for both Android and iOS. Digital Trends offers a breakdown of several of the most popular. Ask a real estate agent if they have one that’s specific to their firm.

These apps can help:

  • Customize a search by location, property type, features, and price
  • Reveal the worth or rental value of a property
  • Show floor plans and exterior/interior photos
  • Provide details about neighborhoods
  • Offer lending institution information
  • Directly connect buyers with a real estate agent

Stay Connected With A Real Estate Agent

Cell phones appear to be everywhere today and research shows that 77-percent of Americans own a smartphone. With that smartphone it’s easier than ever to stay connected with a real estate agent when buying a home. An agent can text or email potential listings to the phone, schedule open house meetings, and send updates regarding the offer just made on the perfect home.

Home buyers that can embrace the digital age have the opportunity to take advantage of the multiple platforms and tools available for making a real estate purchase. 

 

Green Technology To Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint

Green Technology To Reduce Your Home's Carbon FootprintWhen you are a homeowner looking to reduce your carbon footprint, there are a number of steps you can take to make your home earth-friendly. From passive solar heating to solar panels, you can make a difference in the impact your home has on the environment.

Even when you aren’t building a new home, changes can be made to an existing property to increase efficiency and reduce reliance on utility systems.

Invest In Solar Power

Solar panels are one of the most popular ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and with good reason. Solar panels often produce enough electricity so that you have energy to sell back to the energy grid every month. Over time, solar panels on your property can earn you money instead of costing money in utility bills.

Consider Passive Solar Designs

Passive solar is heating your home with the sun by using the right design. For example, certain materials such as slate holds heat. If you have a room that gets plenty of sunlight during the day, a slate floor can help keep the room warmer once the sun sets. If the floor is made from a material that dissipates heat, such as ceramic tile, your home won’t benefit from the sun once it sets.

Radiant Floor Heating Saves On Energy Costs

Heat rises, and those that invest in radiant floor heating find that it is easier to heat up a room. Radiant floor heating uses coils below the surface of your floor, creating heat. The heat rises into the room instead of getting blown in through a heating vent. This reduces the amount of energy you need to heat your home.

Invest In Energy Efficient Appliances

Every appliance that you use in your home has an impact. Consider investing in energy efficient appliances when you are trying to make your home more earth friendly. You will save money on utility costs and help the environment at the same time.

Consider a Clothesline

The energy used to heat your clothes and dry them can be eliminated if you simply hang everything outside to dry. While this adds to your workload, it is a free way to reduce your carbon footprint.

When you have a home, there are a number of ways you can help reduce your impact on the environment. Set up a recycling area in your home, have a vegetable garden if possible, and use electricity only when necessary.

Enjoy your space and don’t be afraid to try new ideas to reduce waste within your home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 9th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 9th, 2018Last week’s economic reports included readings on construction spending, mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims. Other labor-related claims included ADP payrolls, Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate.

Construction Spending Rises in February

Construction spending was higher in February according to the Commerce Department. Spending on building projects rose by 0.10 percent in February Reuters reported that construction spending rose 0.10 percent as compared to expectations of an 0.40 percent increase and January’s unchanged reading. Seasonal weather conditions typically cause lulls in building. Analysts said that residential construction spending increased by 0.10 percent to its highest level since January 2007.

Real estate analysts have consistently indicated that building more homes is the only solution to lingering shortages of available homes in the U.S. Recent news about tariffs on foreign building materials may cause builders to wait and see how tariffs will impact business before going all-out on building homes.

Mortgage Rates Fall as New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates last week; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 4.04 percent.15-year fixed rate mortgage rates averaged 3.87 percent, which was three basis points lower than the prior week. Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 3.62 percent and were four basis points lower than for the prior week. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 242,000 new claims filed as compared to 225,000 new claims expected and 218,0000 claims filed the prior week.

Labor Reports Show Mixed Results

ADP reported fewer private-sector jobs created in March with 241,000 jobs created as compared to February’s reading of 246,000 new private-sector jobs. The Labor Department reported a sharp drop in Non-Farm payrolls, which measures public and private-sector job growth. 103,000 jobs were added in March as compared to February’s revised reading of 326,000 jobs added. Jobs added in March were at their lowest level since fall 2017.

Analysts put the low Non-Farm payrolls reading in perspective; on average 202,000 jobs were added monthly during the first quarter of 2018 and jobs growth was faster than during first quarters of 2016 and 2017. The national unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.10 percent; this was the lowest rate in 17 years. Low unemployment rates typically indicate few layoffs and suggest strong economic growth.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings on inflation, core inflation and consumer sentiment. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Fed will release minutes from its last meeting. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.