6 Do’s and Don’ts for Selling Your First Home

Purchasing your first home is always an education process – you learn about the local market, mortgages, housing codes and zoning and negotiation. Depending on how quickly you have to move to be able to snap up a home, the purchasing process can be a bit of a whirlwind.

Then, a few years down the road, you’re ready to move to a new home that’s bigger, closer to work or has all the extra features you’ve been dreaming of. And while buying again is a whole re-education process with new market trends and regulations, this time you’ll also need to learn the ins and outs of being a first-time seller.

Again, it’s an education process, which is why you’ll want to enlist the help of a real estate agent you feel comfortable taking advice and instruction from to get your home ready.

While the housing market may appear to be ideal for sellers, with bidding wars common and many markets reporting all-time low inventories of properties on the market, sellers should keep perspective when it comes to sale prices. Just because your home’s value has increased doesn’t mean your home will go for millions when it was worth $700,000 a couple years ago.

To better prepare yourself for putting your property on the market, follow these six do’s and don’ts for first-time home sellers:

Do establish an offer due date. The key to selling your property for the price you want is positioning it so the right buyers get a chance to see it and mull it over.

For that reason, a strategy that’s proven effective, is to price a home slightly below expected value and place the property on the market, but don’t accept bids right away.

Hold off offers for approximately seven days, group show it and do a couple open houses, and that’s the best way to maximize your money.

By waiting, a successful purchase isn’t dependent on who’s able to make an offer first, but who’s serious about purchasing the property and able to put together the most appealing bid, whether that includes a flexible timeline or even an all-cash offer in addition to the right price.

It helps drive your price up and keeps everyone honest.

Don’t price too high from the start. Even in a hot seller’s market, an asking price that’s too high can keep buyers from even looking at your property. Overpricing your home from the get-go will cause the property to lose momentum, which can be the biggest killer for real estate sales success.

You don’t want the market to hesitate.

Of course, real estate agents are aware that it can be nerve-wracking for sellers to concede to a lower asking price than they want to see in the end. This is where hiring a real estate agent you trust is key.

It’s not natural for sellers to accept listing their property for a little bit less, but that whole less-is-more strategy works in today’s market.

Do what’s best in the current market. Your real estate agent will likely have a strategic plan for the sale of your home based on what works best in the market for achieving top dollar. Depending of the right price range for your home, that could mean anything from hosting multiple open houses to presenting it as a pocket listing.

As the market changes, caused by additional inventory or a drop in the number of active buyers, for example, agents and brokerage firms will adjust their strategy to fit demand and buyer preference.

Don’t assume you can only sell in spring. If you’re on a tight moving schedule or you have an eye on buying a home currently on the market, you don’t have to hold off until the traditional selling season in spring and summer.

Especially if you’re in a market where buyers are still outnumbering homes on the market, a sale for the price you want is still feasible.

The buyer-to-new-listing ratio is actually better over wintertime than it is during the spring and summer.

Because markets are strapped for listings particularly in fall and winter, active buyers will be eager to see the newest property for sale. All the energy is about the new listing coming on the market.

Do listen to your agent for home prep. Curb appeal, clutter and room updates are all things most sellers are going to hear about from their real estate agent – and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Regardless of how fast homes are receiving offers, your home needs to look stellar to get the price you want.

Not everyone has the money to put in hardwood floors or replace countertops, and that’s OK. The most valuable changes to make are ensuring you have a well-manicured front yard and pleasant entry and clean rooms that allow buyers to focus on the home itself, not your stuff.

Don’t lead with contingencies. Tight seller’s markets throughout the U.S. mean it may be hard for you to find a new house to buy without getting stuck in a bidding war of your own, so you may need some extra time if your house sells fast.

You should not make the sale contingent on the purchase of a new home for you. It actually devalues the property, and this is the best way to avoid that.

Instead, you can include a 60-day use and occupancy clause. The limited leaseback option gives you the option of an extra 60 days to find a house, and the period also helps avoid any potential problems with the buyer’s mortgage approval.

A buffer of 60 days should be enough to let you find your own next home, or at least establish a plan for other temporary housing while you continue your search.

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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

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

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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