What’s the Point?

Prepaid interest, sometimes called “points”, is generally tax deductible when a person pays them in connection with buying, building or improving their principal residence. When points are paid on a refinance, they are not a current deduction but have to be taken prorata over the life of the mortgage.DEDUCTIBILITY.png

For instance, if $3,000 in points were paid on refinancing a 30 year mortgage, a deduction of $100 per year is allowed. When the loan is paid off or replaced by refinancing again or the home is sold and the mortgage paid off from the proceeds, the balance of any un-deducted points may be taken in that tax year.

Your tax professional needs to be made aware of any of these situations so that he or she can accurately reflect the deductions in your return. Currently, the most common situation is homeowners may be refinancing their home for the second, third or even, fourth time. If there are points that have not been completely deducted, they need to be treated in the year of refinancing.

For more information, see points in IRS Publication 936; there is a section on Refinancing in this publication. For advice considering your specific situation, contact your tax professional.

How’s Your IQ on the QM?

Qualifying Guidelines.pngThe Qualified Mortgage Rule came into effect on January 14, 2014 as one of the results to the Dodd Frank Reform Act to protect consumers from predatory lending practices. This will affect the underwriting standards that the majority of lenders will use to qualify borrowers.

The ability to repay rule states that financial information must be supplied by the borrower and verified by the lender. The borrower must have sufficient assets or income to pay back the loan which limits the maximum debt-to-income ratio of 43%. In an effort to present a more accurate picture of the costs to the borrower, teaser rates can no longer hide a mortgage’s true cost.

A maximum of 3% in upfront points and fees can be paid on behalf of the borrower. There can be no negative amortization, interest-only or balloon payments and the loan term limit cannot exceed 30 years.

While there are more requirements, most deal with good underwriting practices that are followed by reputable lenders such as considering and verifying things that affect the ability to repay the mortgage like income, assets, employment status, simultaneous loans, debt, alimony, child support and credit history.

5 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Sale

Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com

By: G. M. Filisko

Working to get your home ship-shape for showings will increase its value and shorten your sales time.Many buyers today want move-in-ready homes and will quickly eliminate an otherwise great home by focusing on a few visible flaws. Unless your home shines, you may endure showing after showing and open house after open house-and end up with a lower sales price. Before the first prospect walks through your door, consider some smart options for casting your home in its best light.

 1. Have a home inspection

Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. For $250 to $400, an inspector will warn you about troubles that could make potential buyers balk. Make repairs before putting your home on the market. In some states, you may have to disclose what the inspection turns up.

2. Get replacement estimates

If your home inspection uncovers necessary repairs you can’t fund, get estimates for the work. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home and the repairs. Also hunt down warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for your furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items you expect to remain with the house.

3. Make minor repairs

Not every repair costs a bundle. Fix as many small problems-sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, dripping faucets-as you can. These may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression your house isn’t well maintained.

4. Clear the clutter

Clear your kitchen counters of just about everything. Clean your closets by packing up little-used items like out-of-season clothes and old toys. Install closet organizers to maximize space. Put at least one-third of your furniture in storage, especially large pieces, such as entertainment centers and big televisions. Pack up family photos, knickknacks, and wall hangings to depersonalize your home. Store the items you’ve packed offsite or in boxes neatly arranged in your garage or basement.

5. Do a thorough cleaning

A clean house makes a strong first impression that your home has been well cared for. If you can afford it, consider hiring a cleaning service.  If not, wash windows and leave them open to air out your rooms. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. Wash light fixtures and baseboards, mop and wax floors, and give your stove and refrigerator a thorough once-over.  Pay attention to details, too. Wash fingerprints from light switch plates, clean inside the cabinets, and polish doorknobs. Don’t forget to clean your garage, too.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has found happiness in a Chicago brownstone with the best curb appeal on the block. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Great News – Flood Insurance

Flood Insurance Bill Passed by Senate;

Awaits President’s Signature

Yesterday, the United States Senate voted 72-22 to approve the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (H.R. 3370). The Senate acted quickly to pass the bill as amended by the House to avoid the need for a conference committee to reconcile any differences. The new bill further reins in and holds the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) accountable for the Biggert-Waters implementation issues.

As passed, the bill repeals FEMA’s authority to increase premium rates at time of sale or new flood map, and refunds the excessive premium to those who bought a property before FEMA warned them of the rate increase. The bill limits premium increases to 18% annually on newer properties and 25% for some older ones. Additionally, the bill adds a small assessment on policies until everyone is paying full cost for flood insurance. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law when it arrives at the White House. NAR had urged a swift vote in the Senate.

Every Homeowner Needs One

water meter key.jpgA water meter key is like insurance; buy it before you need it.

Imagine a pipe has burst and there is water flowing like a river through your home. There may a cut-off valve to each sink if it works and if that’s where the leak is coming from. Your home may have a master cut-off valve but if you haven’t used it before, you might not know where it is. The last resort is to cut off all the water to your house at the meter.

In most cases, you’ll need a key to get into the meter. With water starting to rise in your home, concern over the damage being done may add to your anxieties. You don’t have time to call a plumber or even go the store to buy a water meter key.

Emergencies are handled much better when you plan for them in advance and practice, even though you hope you’ll never need it.

1. Determine what kind of key you need to open your water meter.
2. Purchase it at the home improvement or hardware store.
3. Practice opening the meter to be able to do it quickly and easily.
4. If your meter key doesn’t have a wrench on one end, you need a wrench to turn the water valve.
5. Practice turning the water off just to see how it works and feels.
6. Put the key in an obvious and conspicuous place.
7. Have the phone number of an emergency plumber, just in case you need it.

While you’re planning for the unexpected, it might be a good idea to show some of the other family members how it works and where you keep the key.

Reasonable Expectations

fortune cookie2.pngCoffee should be hot. Beer should be cold. Mexican food should be spicy. However, if these things are less than the standard that you expect, there are not any lasting consequences.

As the value of the object in question rises, either in price or gravity, the expectations usually increase and decisions become progressively more important. Marriage, children, health and careers are certainly a few of the more important items that bear careful consideration.

The sale of the largest asset that most people own, their home, also merits having reasonable expectations. A homeowner should expect to get the market value for their home in a reasonable period of time with as few inconveniences as possible.

According to the latest Home Buyers and Sellers Survey, more homeowners are entrusting the sale of their home to real estate professionals. Owners can increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome by sharing their expectations with agents prior to listing their home for sale.

Challenge your agent to explain what they intend to do to:

  • Price the home correctly
  • Prepare the home to make a good impression
  • Position the home in the marketplace

It is reasonable for a seller to expect the agent will work hard to sell the home; will tell the truth and represent the client’s interests to the best of their ability. Agents exemplify remarkable service when they exceed the seller’s expectations.