Biggest mistake homebuyers make in trying to get a good deal

The process of buying a house requires an investment of time as well as money. So, if you want to get a good deal, doing your homework is crucial.
The fallacy is that ‘getting a good deal’ is all locked in at the initial transaction, on the purchase price or the initial loan.
In reality, that assumption is not always true. When you become a homeowner, the money you had been putting toward rent not only goes toward a mortgage, but to insurance, repairs, maintenance and upgrades.
You have to think of homeownership not just as a one-time event, but as a process over the life of you owning this asset that you’ll be able to manage it wisely and make smart choices with it.
Say you negotiate the purchase price down 5 percent from what the seller is asking and are able to get the loan you want at a quarter point below market rate. Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, not so much if the reason the seller is willing to decrease the price is because the home needs repairs or renovations.
If you’re saving $10,000 on the purchase price but you have to spend $30,000 gutting the kitchen, the home might not be much of a deal.
Don’t be fooled by the sticker price. It’s only the beginning.
For buyers who have saved up and worked toward buying a home for years, it can be overwhelming to think about all the abstract costs associated with homeownership. Think of it like buying a car: You might be able to afford a $300 a month payment on its own, but how much does it cost once you add the price of gas, insurance, oil changes and other maintenance?
It’s a misconception as a car owner to think that it’s the down payment on the car and the monthly cost, and that’s it. Ditto for homeowners. You should not think, ‘Oh I got an interest rate of 3 percent, I got a good deal!’ or ‘The home is being offered for $950,000 and I got it for $930,000. I got a great deal!’
In the context of owning your home, if you plan to live there for the next seven to 10 years — or for the rest of your life — knowing whether or not you got a good deal depends on how well you managed the overall homeownership process.
Homeowners can expect to pay around 3 percent of the of the closing price per year on hidden costs, such as repairs and utilities, although your expenses will vary depending on your location and the size and quality of your home.
I also recommend researching home warranties, which can provide another layer of financial protection.
If you’re trying to get the best possible deal on a home, you need to think long-term. In addition to the initial price of each home, consider the investments you’d need to make years down the line. Being aware of the big picture now could help you save big now — as well as later.

 

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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

8 Design Tricks for Defining Your Open-Plan Dining Space

An open-plan living space gives your home a light and airy feel, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be one sprawlingly large room. Check out these ideas to zone off your dining area and create an intimate space in which to share dinner with friends and family.

11 Design Tricks for Defining Your Open-Plan Dining Space

1. Zone the floor. You can separate your dining space by marking out the area on the floor. Here, an unusual hexagonal pattern stands out beneath the table and instantly closes the space. You also could use floor paint to mark out simple lines or create your own more elaborate design.

2. Add a rug. A simple way to zone the floor is to position a rug under the table. It will create a cozy area and feel wonderfully soft underfoot. To counteract food debris, go for something lightweight, so it can be easily picked up and shaken out.

3. Use natural materials. You can add warmth to a space by introducing natural materials such as wood, plants, woven elements and fabrics. This solid wood table and the lovely textures surrounding it have created a snug spot in the center of the white room. The dining space looks comfortable and welcoming.

4. Frame your viewpoint. The modern white table here sits in the middle of a concrete floor and is surrounded by white walls. It’s prevented from feeling lost or clinical by the clever placing of two bright pictures. These colorful artworks root the table to its spot and allow other elements to fall into place around it. It feels cheerful and cozy.

5. Have everything close at hand. Create a comfortable space by bringing in practicality. The wall-to-wall sideboard in this dining area has plenty of room for glasses and tableware, which makes the area an easy place to be. The owners and their guests can quickly get at everything, so if someone needs an extra glass, it’s right there. The functionality of the space should help to create a relaxed atmosphere.

6. Break up spaces. You can make your open-plan space feel cozier by dividing zones with furniture. This large cabinet helps to separate the living room from the dining area to create a more intimate feel. It also has the added benefit of providing vast amounts of storage.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to a custom cabinet, try placing a large sideboard or shelving unit between the two spaces. Any kind of barrier will help to break up the space and make it feel snug.

7. Build in a bench seat. Cushioned benches are comfortable and flexible. Make the most of an open-plan space by building one next to other elements in the room. Here, the bench rests against the kitchen countertop, creating a snug and sociable spot where guests can gather while the cook prepares food in the kitchen.

8. Soften the lines. Isolate your dining space from any sharp edges in the rest of the room by choosing a curvy table. The dark, industrial kitchen here provides a moody backdrop to the soft, white dining table and chairs. The angled light fixture puts a spotlight on the dining area and highlights it as a oasis in the center of the room.

 

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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

5 Surprising Benefits Of Buying Or Selling Your Home In The Fall

Seeing fewer for-sale signs now that summer is over? That can be great news for buyers who are looking to score a new home and buyers who want to get rid of their place and buy a new one. If you think you missed the boat on making your move this year, we’re here to tell you why buying and selling in the fall can work for you.

Less competition

Yes, there may be fewer homes on the market, but there are also fewer buyers out there competing for the same home you want. That gives buyers an important edge. Families on a mission to move into a new home before school starts are out of the picture. Competition for houses drops off in the fall, a time many people consider to be off-season in real estate. But there are still homes for sale – and in some cases, there’s just as much inventory as there was during the spring and summer.

The benefit to sellers is that those buyers who are out there tend to be more serious, which means your REALTOR® can key in on the real buyers without having to sift through the riffraff.

Tax breaks

If you’re a buyer who closes escrow before December 31, and you may get a nice write off on your taxes. Property tax and mortgage interest are both deductions you can take for your whole year’s worth of income, even if you closed on your home in December. Any payments that are made prior to the closing of the loan are tax-deductible. This can make a serious difference in the amount you owe the government at the end of the year.

There are also potential tax breaks for home sellers. You can include all sorts of selling expenses in the cost basis of your house. Increasing your adjusted cost basis decreases your capital gain because this is what’s subtracted from the sales price to determine how much of a gain – or loss in some cases – you’ve realized. If you have less of a gain, you’re more likely to fall within the exclusion limit, and if you’re gain isn’t excluded, you’ll pay taxes on less. And that’s just the beginning. Closing costs and home improvements may also be write offs for sellers.

Home for the holidays

Buy or sell early in the fall and you could be nicely situated in your new home in time for the holidays. Moving during a calmer time of year also means you may have better access to movers and other necessary resources than during the busier spring and summer seasons.

The right price

Did you list in the spring or summer with an exorbitant number that you thought you’d have no trouble getting because it was a hot market? That’s pretty common these days. Whether you’ve had a revelation about the price you should be asking or have made updates to your home to justify a higher price, you’re probably in better shape to get your (realistic) asking price in the fall. If you’re a seller and you establish a smart pricing strategy, you could find your home standing out in the crowd and selling while others sit on the market under a blanket of snow.

Buyers also may have a better time getting a home that’s within their budget because when there is less competition for homes, there is less chance of bidding wars and over-asking-price sales.

 

Great deals on stuff to fix up your home

Coordinate the timing right, and those items you need to fix up your home for sale in the fall or update and upgrade after a purchase might be priced to your advantage. Check Consumer Reports for a full list of the best times of year to buy everything, and keep in mind holiday and Black Friday sales. You could score some great deals at this time of year.

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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

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

2626 Borton Dr – JUST SOLD! The Perfect Family Retreat/ Compound located on 1.2 acres adjacent to the Douglas Preserve

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