Thursday, September 27, 2012

10 helpful tax tips for Sellers

The IRS has recently issued a helpful list of 10 tax tips all homeowners should keep in mind when selling a home:
1. You are usually eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.
2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).
3. You are not eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.
4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on your tax return.
5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.
6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.
7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude.
8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.
9. If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year's tax return.
10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.
For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home.

Trulia: Buying a home is 45% cheaper than renting

It's more affordable to buy a home than to rent in the 100 largest metros in the nation. That's the case if you plan to stay in the home for seven years, which is the average time Americans traditionally live in a home before moving.
The findings come from real estate data provider Trulia, which conducted a study of key market factors impacting the cost of homeownership. Based on asking prices and rents from the summer, the company claims that, on average, buying is 45% cheaper than renting those areas. That’s a savings of $771 a month.
Trulia Chief Economist Jeff Kolko cites the faster pace of rent hikes versus those of home prices.
“Asking home prices have started to rebound and have risen by 2.3% year-over-year in August (3.8% excluding foreclosures); however, rents have risen more (4.7%),” Kolko notes. “This means that prices are lower relative to rents than they were a year ago.”
“But more importantly, mortgage rates have fallen,” he adds. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage sits at 3.55%, hovering only six basis points above the record low average hit in July.
To calculate whether renting or buying costs less, Trulia assumes people can get a low mortgage rate of 3.5%, itemize their federal tax deductions, are in the 25% tax bracket, and will stay in their home for seven years.
However, how much cheaper it is to buy a home than to rent depends on where you live.
Buying is 24% cheaper than renting in Honolulu, 28% cheaper in San Francisco, and 31% cheaper in New York, Trulia found. (Click on the map below.) Homeownership is even more affordable in Detroit, where buying a home is 70% cheaper than renting, and 63% cheaper in Oklahoma City and Gary, Ind.
With a higher mortgage rate (4.5%), failing to itemize and a shorter time horizon (five years), Trulia says renting becomes cheaper than buying in New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Honolulu. Buying remains cheaper than renting in the other 96 out of the 100 largest metros.
If buying is so inexpensive relative to renting, why aren't more people doing it? Kolko responds that high unemployment is preventing people from saving for a down payment.
“And keep in mind, in the metros where the cost of buying is less than half of what it would cost to rent over the long term, it still takes years to save enough for a down payment,” he says. “It may be 56% cheaper to buy than to rent in Denver, for instance, but it takes more than eight years to save enough for a down payment there.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mortgage Rates Even Lower

Mortgage rates have moved lower every day this week.  Today's move was even more pronounced than yesterday's, carrying rates decisively into NEW all-time lows.   Today's data and events during the domestic market session were of little concern to Secondary Mortgage Markets, which began the day in stronger territory thanks to the overnight sessions in Europe and Asia.  From there, MBS (the "mortgage-backed-securities") that most directly influence rates) essentially held stead for the rest of the day, allowing lenders the ability to pass on more of the improvements.
The continued push into lifetime low territory lets us know that lenders are actually doing a fairly aggressive job of moving rates lower.  Adding to that sense of aggressiveness is the fact that most lenders have priced in the recent increase to Guarantee Fees which equates roughly to .125% higher rates.  For thefirst time ever, best-execution on 30yr Fixed Conventional Loans is 3.375% at a majority of Lenders, and even lower rates are viable choices at a few lenders for a few scenarios.

Check out these UNBELIEVABLE rates:
  • 30YR FIXED - 3.375% - 3.5%
  • FHA/VA - 3.25% - 3.5% (varies more between lenders than conventional 30yr Fixed)
  • 15 YEAR FIXED -  2.75% - 2.875%%
  • 5 YEAR ARMS -  2.625-3.25% depending on the lender

Friday, September 14, 2012

How can I improve my credit score right now?

As you know, your credit score is that 3 digit number that determines a lot in your financial life, including whether you can buy that beautiful house you're drooling over. So how can you improve or keep your credit score high?
There are several factors that contribute to one's score. Here are 5 ways to improve your credit score now:

1) Have multiple types of Credit: Lenders want to see that you have a history of multiple types of credit. If you only have one credit card, open up another. If you're going to buy a car, don't pay cash but pay a good downpayment instead and get a loan. Your credit score will go up as you pay. 

2) Pay down your debt: The more debt you have the riskier you appear to a lender. Paying down or paying off debt is a great way to make yourself more desirable for a home loan. 

3) Be on time with every bill. Don't be late! You can set up automatic payments from your checking account to pay off your credit card each month, and get those miles you need for a trip to Italy!
4) Do NOT under any circumstances open new lines of credit, no matter how small, before you start looking for a home.

5) Build your credit history: Younger borrowers are always at a slight disadvantage because they have a shorter credit history. But the longer you have lines of credit open (never close a line of credit! Even if you don't use a card, just keep it open), the higher your score will be!