7 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

It’s tough being a first-time buyer in today’s housing market.

Home prices are hitting record highs in many parts of the country, often selling for more than the asking price.

Don’t make it even harder (or more expensive) for yourself by making these common mistakes:

1. Assuming you won’t get approved for a mortgage

Ideally, you’d like to have as little debt as possible, an impeccable credit score, and a 20% down payment before borrowing money for a home. However, even borrowers with less can get loans in today’s market, thanks to options like Federal Housing Authority loans, which are meant to help first-time buyers.

2. Interviewing only one lender

The fees and rates offered by lenders may vary substantially, and they all offer different service levels and different loan products. Be sure to at least chat with a big bank, a regional bank or credit union, and an online lender.

3. Not getting pre-approved early on

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage serves two important purposes: First, it gives you a realistic understanding of how much you can spend on the house. Second, it shows sellers that you’re serious and gives you slightly more standing if you’re competing for homes with all-cash buyers.

Make it less stressful by gathering up relevant financial documents like bank statements, tax returns, and pay stubs, and by checking your credit report for errors in advance. Given the competitive interest rate environment and the competitive housing market, it’s a good idea to be prepared and organized before you start the process.

4. Maxing out your mortgage limit

Just because a lender says that you can borrow a certain amount, doesn’t mean you should borrow that much. Staying below that limit will give you more financial flexibility to cover the added expenses that come with purchasing a home, as well as long-term changes to your income.

Create a budget that includes how much money you can spend on housing costs each month, and then use those numbers to figure out what your “real” limit should be.

5. Letting your emotions control your decisions

Buying a home can be a long and frustrating process. These days, starter homes go quickly, and it’s common for first-time buyers to experience rejection on the first offers they make. In that kind of environment, it’s easy to fall in love with a house that’s out of your budget, or get caught up in the heat of a bidding war and end up paying more than you expected.

It’s OK to get excited when you think you’ve found your house, but you don’t want to put yourself in a bad spot.

6. Waiving contingencies without understanding the risks

In highly competitive markets, it’s becoming increasingly common for buyers to make offers that aren’t contingent on financing or inspection. While waiving contingencies can make your bid more desirable to a seller, it can make the transaction much more risky for you. Have a conversation with your realtor and a lawyer before opting out of contingencies in your contract. In a worst-case scenario, you may end up losing your deposit.

7. Allowing your credit score to change before the close

A pre-approval letter is not a guarantee of funding, and if your credit score or income levels change drastically between the pre-approval and the closing of the loan, lenders may change their terms or rescind the offer entirely. While you’re home shopping, be sure to pay all your bills on time and steer clear of new credit accounts, even if that means you have to wait to pick out your furniture. If possible, try not to switch jobs until after you close, particularly if you’re moving into a new industry.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

Tax Free Exchange: A Valuable Alternative To A Home Sale

Congress is currently talking tax reform. Two very important real estate benefits are on the so-called “chopping block”, either to be completely eliminated or significantly curtailed.

It is doubtful that the home owner exclusion of up to $500,000 (or $250,000 if you file a single tax return) of profit will be impacted; there are too many homeowner voters who will forcefully object. But investors do not have the same strong lobbyist who can make the case for preserving the “like kind” exchange. So if you have an investment property, now might be the time to consider doing an exchange.

Residential homeowners have a number of tax benefits, the most important of which is the exclusion of up to $500,000 (or $250,000 if you file a single tax return) profit made on the sale of your principal residence. But real estate investors — large and small — still have to pay capital gains tax when they sell their investments. And since most investors depreciated their properties over a number of years, the capital gains tax can be quite large.

There is a way of deferring payment of this tax, and it is known as a Like-Kind Exchange under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. In my opinion, these exchange provisions are still an important tool for any real estate investor.

The exchange process is not a “tax free” device, although people refer to it as a “tax-free exchange.” It is also called a “Starker exchange” or a “deferred exchange.” It will not relieve you from the ultimate obligation to pay the capital gains tax. It will, however, allow you to defer paying that tax until you sell your last investment property — or you die.

The rules are complex, but here is a general overview of the process.

Section 1031 permits a delay (non-recognition) of gain only if the following conditions are met:

First, the property transferred (called by the IRS the “relinquished property”) and the exchange property (“replacement property”) must be “property held for productive use in trade, in business or for investment.” Neither property in this exchange can be your principal residence, unless you have abandoned it as your personal house.

Second, there must be an exchange; the IRS wants to ensure that a transaction called an exchange is not really a sale and a subsequent purchase.

Third, the replacement property must be of “like kind.” The courts have given a very broad definition to this concept. As a general rule, all real estate is considered “like kind” with all other real estate. Thus, a condominium unit can be swapped for an office building, a single family home for raw land, or a farm for commercial or industrial property.

Once you meet these tests, it is important that you determine the tax consequences. If you do a like-kind exchange, your profit will be deferred until you sell the replacement property. However, it must be noted that the cost basis of the new property in most cases will be the basis of the old property. Discuss this with your accountant to determine whether the savings by using the like-kind exchange will make up for the lower cost basis on your new property. And discuss also whether you might be better off selling the property, biting the bullet and paying the tax, but not have to be a landlord again.

The traditional, classic exchange (A and B swap properties) rarely works. Not everyone is able to find replacement property before they sell their own property. In a case involving a man named Mr. Starker, the court held that the exchange does not have to be simultaneous.

Congress did not like this open-ended interpretation, and in 1984, two major limitations were imposed on the Starker (non-simultaneous) exchange.

First, the replacement property must be identified before the 45th day after the day on which the original (relinquished) property is transferred.

Second, the replacement property must be purchased no later than 180 days after the taxpayer transfers his original property, or the due date (with any extension) of the taxpayer’s return of the tax imposed for the year in which the transfer is made. These are very important time limitations, which should be noted on your calendar when you first enter into a 1031 exchange.

In 1989, Congress added two additional technical restrictions. First, property in the United States cannot be exchanged for property outside the United States.

Second, if property received in a like-kind exchange between related persons is disposed of within two years after the date of the last transfer, the original exchange will not qualify for non-recognition of gain.

In May of 1991, the Internal Revenue Service adopted final regulations which clarified many of the issues.

This column cannot analyze all of these regulations. The following, however, will highlight some of the major issues:

1. Identification of the replacement property within 45 days. According to the IRS, the taxpayer may identify more than one property as replacement property. However, the maximum number of replacement properties that the taxpayer may identify is either three properties of any fair market value, or any larger number as long as their aggregate fair market value does not exceed 200% of the aggregate fair market value of all of the relinquished properties.

Furthermore, the replacement property or properties must be unambiguously described in a written document. According to the IRS, real property must be described by a legal description, street address or distinguishable name (e.g., The Marc).”

2. Who is the neutral party? Conceptually, the relinquished property is sold, and the sales proceeds are held in escrow by a neutral party, until the replacement property is obtained. Generally, an intermediary or escrow agent is involved in the transaction. In order to make absolutely sure the taxpayer does not have control or access to these funds during this interim period, the IRS requires that this agent cannot be the taxpayer or a related party. The holder of the escrow account can be an attorney or a broker engaged primarily to facilitate the exchange.

3. Interest on the exchange proceeds. One of the underlying concepts of a successful 1031 exchange is the absolute requirement that not one penny of the sales proceeds be available to the seller of the relinquished property under any circumstances unless the transactions do not take place.

Generally, the sales proceeds are placed in escrow with a neutral third party. Since these proceeds may not be used for the purchase of the replacement property for up to 180 days, the amount of interest earned can be significant — or at least it used to be until banks starting paying pennies on our savings accounts.

Surprisingly, the Internal Revenue Service permitted the taxpayer to earn interest — referred to as “growth factor” — on these escrowed funds. Any such interest to the taxpayer has to be reported as earned income. Once the replacement property is obtained by the exchanger, the interest can either be used for the purchase of that property, or paid directly to the exchanger.

The rules are quite complex, and you must seek both legal and tax accounting advice before you enter into any like-kind exchange transaction.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

Looking to Move-Up to a Luxury Home? Now’s the Time!

If your house no longer fits your needs and you are planning on buying a luxury home, now is a great time to do so! I recently shared data from Trulia’s Market Mismatch Study which showed that in today’s premium home market, buyers are in control.

The inventory of homes for sale in the luxury market far exceeds those searching to purchase these properties in many areas of the country. This means that homes are often staying on the market longer, or can be found at a discount.

Those who have a starter or trade-up home to sell will find buyers competing, and often entering bidding wars, to be able to call your house their new home.

The sale of your starter or trade-up house will aid in coming up with a larger down payment for your new luxury home. Even a 5% down payment on a million-dollar home is $50,000.

But not all who are buying luxury properties have a home to sell first.

Some high-earning millennials save money until they are in their early 30s to buy a place and just skip over that starter-home phase. They’ll stay in an apartment until they can afford to pay for the place they want.

 

Bottom Line

The best time to sell anything is when demand is high and supply is low. If you are currently in a starter or trade-up house that no longer fits your needs, and are looking to step into a luxury home… Now’s the time to list your house for sale and make your dreams come true.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

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2626 Borton Drive – Santa Barbara, CA

SOLD for $1,500,000

Property Website: www.MesaRetreat.com

Property Video:  http://Video.MesaRetreat.com

Interactive 3D Tour:  http://3D.MesaRetreat.com

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

3 Questions to Ask If You Want to Buy Your Dream Home

If you are debating purchasing a home right now, you are probably getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family will have your best interest at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in the real estate market.

Ask yourself the following 3 questions to help determine if now is a good time for you to buy in today’s market.

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place? 

This is truly the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with money.

For example, a survey by Braun showed that over 75% of parents say “their child’s education is an important part of the search for a new home.”

This survey supports a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University which revealed that the top four reasons Americans buy a home have nothing to do with money. They are:

  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of that space

What does owning a home mean to you? What non-financial benefits will you and your family gain from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not.

2. Where are home values headed?

According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median price of homes sold in December (the latest data available) was $232,200, up 4.0% from last year. This increase also marks the 58th consecutive month with year-over-year gains.

If we look at the numbers year over year, CoreLogic forecasted a rise by 4.7% from December 2016 to December 2017.

What does that mean to you?

Simply put, with prices increasing each month, it might cost you more if you wait until next year to buy. Your down payment will also need to be higher in order to account for the higher price of the home you wish to buy.

3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed?

A buyer must be concerned about more than just prices. The ‘long-term cost’ of a home can be dramatically impacted by even a small increase in mortgage rates.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of Realtors, and Fannie Mae have all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase over the next twelve months, as you can see in the chart below:

Bottom Line

Only you and your family will know for certain if now is the right time to purchase a home. Answering these questions will help you make that decision.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

Thinking of Selling? Why Now is the Time

It is common knowledge that a large number of homes sell during the spring-buying season. For that reason, many homeowners hold off on putting their homes on the market until then. The question is whether or not that will be a good strategy this year.

The other listings that do come out in the spring will represent increased competition to any seller. Do a greater number of homes actually come to the market in the spring, as compared to the rest of the year? The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently revealed the months in which most people listed their homes for sale in 2016.

The three months in the second quarter of the year are consistently the most popular months for sellers to list their homes on the market. Last year, the number of homes available for sale in January was 1,820,000.

That number spiked to 2,140,000 by May!

What does this mean to you?

With the national job situation improving, and mortgage interest rates projected to rise later in the year, buyers are not waiting until the spring; they are out looking for a home right now. If you are looking to sell this year, waiting until the spring to list your home means you will have the greatest competition for a buyer.

Bottom Line

It may make sense to beat the rush of housing inventory that will enter the market in the spring and list your home today.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

Open Floor Plan Still Popular

Open floor plans continue to reign. Eighty-four percent of builders say that in the typical single-family home they build, the kitchen and family room arrangement is at least partially open. Fifty-four percent say it’s completely open, according to responses from a September 2016 National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.

“Completely open” essentially means the two areas are combined into the same room. Partially open signifies areas separated by a partial wall, arch, counter, or something less than a full wall.

Seventy percent of recent and prospective home buyers say they prefer a home with either a completely or partially open kitchen-family room arrangement; 32 percent say they prefer the arrangement completely open, according to an NAHB survey.

Only 16 percent of buyers say they want the kitchen and family rooms in separate areas of the house.

As demand continues to increase for open floor plans, homeowners of existing-homes are also looking to open up their kitchen and family room areas. Professional remodelers report that 40 percent of their projects involved making the floor plan more open by removing interior walls, pillars, arches, etc., according to first quarter of 2016 data in the Remodeling Market Index.

Source: “Builders Satisfy Demand for Open Floor Plans,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Jan. 11, 2017)

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

How to Avoid House-Hunting Drama

Horror stories often abound when house hunting enters the conversation. Whatever you’ve heard, it’s natural to feel a little apprehensive when making what could be one of the biggest purchases in your life.

Moving is one of the most stressful situations that a person can go through. It’s one of the most rewarding, but also one of the most stressful. So if you’re in the market for a house, follow these tips to drop the drama at the door during your search for a home.

Know What You Want

The first step to avoid house hunting drama is to really sit back and think about what is most important to you. What are your non-negotiables? Location? Educational opportunities? Price? Daily commute? Once you have determined what is important to you and your family, then begin your home search.

Stick to Criteria

Be sure to check that the communities in which you are conducting your search include homes that align with your values. This will narrow down your scope so you are not looking at hundreds of homes, just the ones that fit in your criteria. If you do your research ahead of time, you can be more confident that what you want is available in the area that you want. Looking in an area that’s not going to provide the home type that you want is going to cause frustration.

Get Preapproved

The search for the right home can take long enough, let alone with extra interruptions. Avoid paperwork hiccups by submitting all of the necessary documents to make sure your loan is completely preapproved. So if there is any issue, it is identified early on in the process and not the moment that you’re trying to submit a contract on the property.

Remember that you don’t make your monthly payment to the price of the home. Price is relative to the mortgage you are able to obtain. So be sure to get your numbers locked down so you know what price range you are most comfortable with.

Choose the Right Person

When choosing a real estate agent, do your research. Meet with them to make sure you are a fit. Give them your expectations and make sure they have the ability to get the job done.

Hiring the right home inspector could also ensure a smoother home buying process.

It’s all in the reports that they provide. The ideal reports by inspectors include detailed explanations as well as photographs. Unfortunately, some reports consist of a two- to three-page checklist. This can create frustration on the buyers and the sellers part because you don’t have clear enough documentation on what the problem is.

Communication is Key

Communication is the antidote for any drama disease. The more open the client is with the agent, the less drama is going to present itself in the transaction. You have to trust your agent and relate to them as a confidant, as an ally.

Be open about your biggest stressors and fears in the home buying process with your real estate agent. If you are prone to anxiety and stress, don’t be embarrassed by that, but bring that to your agent.

Know Your Personality

Let’s face it. Most of us have at least one drama queen in our lives. And some of us might just be one. Be true to yourself. If you know that you’re a drama-filled person, then embrace that. A good real estate agent will have experience in working with all different kinds of people and family dynamics. If that’s your personality type, make your agent aware.

Don’t Wait

Procrastination causes drama. If you have a deadline, many real estate professionals recommend beginning four to six months ahead of time to start educating yourself on the process. Do some research on your local housing market. For example, find out the average amount that is negotiated in your community. Have the right expectations, or else you’re setting yourself up for frustration. A little preparation will go a long way in helping your assumptions stay reasonably accurate.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com