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Home Buyer Advice

How To Invest Your IRA In Real Estate

IRA Investment Strategies
IRA Investment Strategies

IRA Investment Strategies

There are several advantages of using a self-directed IRA or Solo 401(k) plan to buy real estate. The first is tax deferral or tax-free growth. For example, if one purchased a piece of property with retirement funds for $80,000 and later sold the property for $300,000, the $220,000 of gain appreciation would generally be tax-deferred. Whereas, if you purchased the property using personal funds (non-retirement funds), the gain would be subject to federal income tax, and in most cases, state income tax. Second, a self-directed IRA can allow you to invest in hard assets you know and understand, such as a rental property or piece of land. Lastly, having the ability to invest in alternative assets is believed to be a good source of investment diversification.
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
If you are looking for easy transactions both in and out, REITs provide that. Many REITs are registered with the SEC and are publicly traded on a stock exchange. These are known as publicly traded REITs. Others may be registered with the SEC but are not publicly traded. These are known as non- traded REITs (also known as non-exchange traded REITs).
All REITs have their own specialties, so make sure you do your due diligence on the company. REITs are required to distribute 90% of its taxable income as dividends, so many retirees look to REITs for income.
Rental Properties
You can also invest in rental properties. You can buy distressed properties, rehabthem and rent them out or you can buy performing ones. If you decided that you want to go the distressed route you’ll have to keep a very close eye on the accounting. There are lots of rules in regards to tracking the money. You can either manage them on a daily basis or go through the process of hiring a property manager to manage it for you. This is a good way to build a passive income stream.
Turnkey Real Estate Investment
Turnkey is another viable option for SDIRA owners. Self-directed IRA (SDIRA) is another option for an IRA holder, which allows them to invest in diversified assets. To expand on “diversified assets,” this means that you aren’t restricted to stocks and bonds like most IRAs. You are able to invest in many different things. SDIRA serves as a savings account where your money can grow tax-free until you withdraw the funds, unless it is a Roth IRA. If it is a Roth IRA, the money is taxed prior to going into the account and when it is withdrawn, it is tax-free.
The owner simply transfers funds from his/her IRA or other retirement account to SDIRA. Many of them increase the amount invested with their personal contributions to the account.
A Turnkey Real Estate investment basically means that you are working with a turnkey investment company that are selling rental properties. Most of these investment properties are already rehabbed and rented out. You just need to buy the property and everything else in managed by the turnkey company. This is the best option for out-of-state investorsor someone who’s not interested in buying, rehabbing or managing the property. You’ll get the rent every month and you’ll pay a portion of that to your turnkey company for managing the properties. It is a easy hands off approach to investing in real estate.
Make sure to do your research properly in order to find the right turnkey investment company.Pay them a visit, check the property in person and invest once you’re satisfied.
You may have noticed that fix and flip is not on this list. And there is a big reason for that. The idea behind an IRA is that it is a retirement account, not a business account. If you start conducting business in your IRA, it can open you up to tax liabilities.

Online Home Decorating Resources

Online interior design services are transforming the way we access interior design help. It’s the magic combination of professional design guidance, affordable prices, plus an easy and quick process that is attractive to people everywhere. Whether you’re deciding what color to paint your living room, envisioning a different furniture layout need design assistance with a room or an entire home, these online resources can get you started.
Anyone who has ever considered repainting his or her home knows how overwhelming a trip to the hardware store’s paint section can be. Pittsburgh Paints offers a fun way to find the best hues for you: at The Voice of Color, you can play their 13-question ColorSense Game to find out what your signature color style is. With questions about words that inspire you, your preferred scents and favorite vacation spot, the site will come up with a personalized set of colors. They’ll then offer you palettes within your range of hues so you know which shades match, making it simple to coordinate every room of your house.
Whether you want to design your dream house or experiment with redecorating the home you already have, Homestyler can help you visualize your plans. The site lets you drag and drop furniture and brand-name products (there are over 15,000 items to play around with) into your virtual home to check them out before you commit to buying. You can build the online version of your house to match the specifications of the one you own, play around with new layouts and furniture, and view the whole thing in 3D for an even more realistic picture. Get design tips from their instructional online videos as well as find inspiration from the site’s gallery of user-generated designs.
Ask any interior decorator how she gets inspired and she’ll show you a mood board. Often featuring compilations of fabric swatches, furniture photos and torn-out pages of decorating magazines, mood boards are a great jumping-off point for any home decor project. However, not everyone has the time to cull all those bits and pieces. At mydeco, you can build your own mood board in just a few clicks. Search the site’s listings, which contain thousands of pieces of furniture, works of art, maps, fabric, tiles and more, then drag them onto your virtual board. You can search by color or store to find exactly what you’re looking for, or just browse your options to see what inspires. And if you fall in love with your creation, you can click on each item to purchase it.
Internet-based businesses are helping homeowners get professional design expertise and merchandise more affordably and faster than ever. The latest iteration to shake up the process is online companies that employ staff designers or freelancers with the goal of simplifying the designer-homeowner partnership and allowing the act of home furnishing to became transparent, faster, and more affordable.
Interactions with the designer can happen via email, phone, instant message, Skype, and sometimes in-person meetings. Before the homeowner signs off on a project, they are provided a floor plan or 3D rendering, which shows how to arrange the furnishings once they arrive. Since the first companies emerged in 2012, many have grown and added locations.
Here are a few online interior design firms gaining prominence.
Decorilla: This company now uses 10,000 designers across every state and reaches internationally as well. Decorilla also has an in-house staff who handle other parts of the job, such as coordinating delivery, dealing with returned goods, and managing construction. This company starts clients out with a questionnaire, but they can also search its website to pick a designer whose portfolio they like. The company offers three packages, from basic bronze for $499 for one room to gold for several rooms for $1,699, while offering clients access to highly experienced designers. Rather than providing one plan or rendering, four options are offered to clients with realistic renderings from two different designers. Each client also gets company discounts on more than 250 well-known brands such as Wayfair, Crate and Barrel, and Jonathan Adler. Many projects incorporate one-of-a-kind goods.. For those who need less help, the company offers service starting at $75 an hour.
Decorist: Based in San Francisco, with a roster of approximately 400 interior designers, the firm handles design projects online only. After filling out a questionnaire, clients pick from three packages: the Classic Design Service for $299 per room with the industry’s most ambitious up-and-coming designers; the Elite Design Service for $599 per room with a locally established designer with regional press; or the Celebrity Design Service for $1,299 per room with a nationally recognized “A-list” interior designer. What a home owner gets: two “mood boards,” the chance to chat via instant message with the designer, a final room design board and floor plan, and a detailed shopping list. Decorist’s free concierge purchasing team members handle shopping and delivery.
Homepolish: Based in New York, this firm works with freelance designers, architects, and general contractors who use the partnership to increase their exposure to new clientele and gain access to its proprietary technology and tools to run their businesses more efficiently. the company started in 2012, it has grown to a network of 1,000 professionals nationally who take on not just residential but also commercial and hospitality projects. The company also has an in-house staff of 70. Designers visit clients’ spaces but can also work by video if they live far away. Prices begin at $140 an hour with a minimum of 10 hours required; hourly rates go up to more than $300 an hour. The company touts its extensive list of trade and retail vendors, and other services such as construction management. Homepolish team members make money by time spent rather than from commissions on client purchases.
Modsy: They offer service online nationwide through video and telephone calls with four design packages available: basic for $69 per room with purchases delivered in eight to 10 days; classic for $89 per room and delivery in six to eight days; premium for $199 per room and delivery of goods in four to seven days; and multiroom at $399 for up to three rooms and delivery in four to seven days. For an extra $15, home owners can have any item they already own digitally inserted into their plan to see how it will look; a substitute but similar item can be inserted for free. Plans or renderings highlight purchases with a white dot, which, when clicked, details the product information. Designers try to give clients choices in each layout, such as a sectional or sofa or different paint palettes.

What Buyers Should Check When Buying an Older Home

Older homes often come with plenty of character and history and possibly even a lower price – but buying a home that has been around for a while can also mean that you will have to address age-related problems. These include:
·      Electrical issues
Older homes could have dated wiring and electrical panels that may not be able to keep up with today’s needs, so be sure to check that that the house is up to code. Also, insulation on old wiring can pose a safety hazard, Un-renovated homes may have know and tube wiring, ROMAX or other wiring that can degrade and be a source of a fie. The lack of GFI outlets also indicated that the system is not grounded.
·      Roofing
In general, roofs often need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years. Learn the last time the roof was replaced and how it was done. Some homeowners may just add new shingles on top of the old roof, which is not viewed by housing experts as the best way to replace an entire roof. Also, check for loose shingles, leaks, and the type of materials used on the roof. “A composite shingle roof will cost less to replace than a clay tile or metal roof,” “The pitch of the roof can also drive up costs – a roof that is particularly steep may be challenging to replace and repair.”
Energy prices were much lower years ago so little thought was given to insulation. You will more than likely want to improve the amount of quality of insulation in the home.
·      Foundations
Older homes could have foundations that are cracked, sunken, uneven or otherwise in need of repair. A structural engineer can closely inspect a foundation and alert buyers to potentially costly problems.
·      Lead paint
Older homes may have lead paint, which can lead to serious health problems. It was banned in the U.S. in 1978, but homes built before then may still have it. In fact, about 87 percent of homes built before 1940 contain lead-based paint that needs to be professionally removed.
·      Plumbing
The majority of the problems with plumbing originates with the pipes. Galvanized pipes, clay or cast iron sewer lines, polybutylene piping, pipe bellies, and drains. I strongly recommend that you have the sewer system scoped with a camera as part of your home inspection process.
·      Asbestos
Asbestos was commonly used in building materials. Many products are still in place today contain asbestos,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, according to the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services. If the house was built prior to the 1980s, it was likely built with some asbestos-containing materials. Some include:
•   Cement roofing and siding shingles
•   House Insulation in homes built between 1930 and 1950
•   Textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints
•   Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces
•   Older products such as stove-top pads
•   Walls and floors around wood burning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets
•   Some vinyl floor tiles, and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
•   Hot water and steam pipes in older houses with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape
•   Asbestos insulation for oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets
•   Boilers
•   Soundproofing or decorative material
The presence of asbestos-containing materials in a home is not hazardous unless the material becomes damaged. Damaged, deteriorating, or friable asbestos that becomes dry and crumbles into a powder may release asbestos fibers into the air that can be inhaled and can pose a health risk for the residents. Professional testing is recommended to determine whether materials in your home contain asbestos.
A certified Exclusive Buyers Agent will have the resources to ensure complete and thorough inspections before you commit to buying an older home.

What Home Buyers Can Learn From a Seller’s Disclosure Statement

Sellers Property Disclosure

Any responsible buyer wants to know everything about the home they’re buying before signing on the dotted line. After all, this is probably the biggest purchase you will ever make, so due diligence is a must. The majority of the real estate agents in Florida are Transactional Agents and do not owe the Buyer a fiduciary duty, An Exclusive Buyer Agent does and will work for the buyer to determine all the information known about the property and advise you on inspections, permit searches, etc. Reviewing the Seller’s Disclosure is the first step in this process.

A Seller’s Disclosure in the State of Florida Is a standard form that is essentially a checklist in which a seller indicates the condition of the different features of a property, any known problems affecting the property, and any pending legal issues. This could include things like knowledge of lead-based paint, water damage, pest damage, past repairs, past insurance claims, any history of property line disputes, etc.

Typically, a seller’s disclosure form is filled out by the seller along with their listing paperwork. When buyer’s agents go into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to look up potential properties for their clients, that disclosure statement should be available or can be requested from the listing agent.

I am increasingly running into situations wheretransactional brokerage firms are taking the position that since a Seller’s Disclosure is NOT required by law that are not asking the sellers of their listings to fill one out. The first line of the SPDR provides “Notice to Licensee and Seller”; the less they know, the easier it is to make a “deal”. They are relying on the fact that other transactional agents working with buyers will feel the same and not ask for a Sellers Disclosure.

Although sellers aren’t required to complete this specific SPDR form, a residential seller does have to comply with the rule established in Johnson v. Davis. In that case, the Florida Supreme Court held that “where the seller of a home knows of facts materially affecting the value of the property which are not readily observable and are not known to the buyer, the seller is under a duty to disclose them to the buyer.” These material facts are sometimes referred to as latent defects. In addition, in Rayner vs. Wise Realty Co. of Tallahassee, the First District Court of Appeal provided that this same disclosure requirement applies to residential properties that are being sold as is.

In cases were the listing agent does not provide a Sellers Disclosure I request that the Seller answer all my questions in writing and provide a comprehensive list of questions that encompasses everything asked on the SPDR and more.

A seller’s disclosure form is NOT a substitute for a home inspection. Remember, sellers are required to disclosure only problems they know about. Most homeowners don’t go in their attic very often, and have probably never been up on their roof, and they aren’t required to do so before filling out the disclosure. While this document can provide a lot of valuable information, the home inspection is another layer of protection for a buyer.

The importance of this disclosure statement is just one of the many reasons why it’s critical for buyers and sellers to use an Exclusive Buyer Agent ( EBA) during any real estate transaction. EBAs are up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations and are very experienced with the complex documents and paperwork. They can help walk buyers through the disclosure so they understand all aspects of the home they’re buying and recommend the appropriate home inspections ( WDO, Radon, Leak Testing, Mold, and more) to ensure that any hidden defects are found in advance of the purchase.

Key Trends Home Buyers Should Watch in 2019

2019 Real Estate Market Trends
2019 Real Estate Market Trends

2019 Real Estate Market Trends

It’s a time to look ahead, to make new plans, to achieve new dreams. If those dreams include buying your own home, you should keep an eye on the ever-changing tides of the housing market. Now, markets are like the weather: You can’t entirely predict how they will act, but you can get a sense of the forces that will push things in one direction or another.
There will be more homes for sale, especially in luxury markets
There has been a tight inventory of homes for sale for several years now and homes have been hitting the market, but not enough to keep up with the demand. Nationwide, inventory actually hit its lowest level in recorded history last winter, but this year it finally started to recover. Inventory growth is expected to continue into next year, but not at a blockbuster rate—less than 7%. This is welcome news for buyers.
Affording a home will remain difficult
Life is also going to be more difficult for home buyers, because mortgage rates are expected to continue to increase, as well as home prices, so the pinch that buyers are feeling from affordability is going to continue to be a pain point moving into 2019.
Mortgage rates, now hovering around 5%, are projected to reach around 5.8% by the end of 2019. That means the monthly mortgage payment on a typical home listing will be about 8% higher next year. Meanwhile, incomes are only growing about 3% on average. That double whammy is toughest on first-time home buyers, who tend to borrow the most heavily and who don’t have any equity in a current home to draw on.
Millennials will still dominate home buying
Just a few years ago, Millennials were the new kids on the block, just barely old enough to buy their own homes. Now they’re the biggest generational group of home buyers, accounting for 45% of mortgages (compared with 17% for baby boomers and 37% for Gen Xers). Some of them are even moving on up from their starter homes.
At the time of last year’s forecast, the GOP’s proposed revision of the tax code was still being batted around Congress. While there was talk that it might discourage people from buying a home, no one really knew how it might affect the real-estate market.
This year … well, we still don’t really know. That’s because most taxpayers won’t be filing taxes under the new law until April 2019. And while some people might have a savvy tax adviser giving them a better idea of what’s in store, for many, the reality check will come in the form of a bigger tax bill—or a bigger refund.
Renters are likely to have lower tax bills, but might not be tempted to buy while affordability remains a challenge, and with the new, increased standard deduction reducing the appeal of the homeowner’s mortgage-interest deduction.
“I think the new tax plan will affect mostly homeowners and home buyers in the upper parts of the distribution,” says Andrew Hanson, associate professor of economics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. “Those who either own or are buying higher-priced homes are going to pay a lot more.”
The biggest change resulting from the new tax law, Hanson predicts, will be in mortgages, since people will be less inclined to take out large mortgages.

Electrical Safety Tips During the Holidays

Xmas tree lights

Decorating your home is one of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday season. Because electricity is involved with so many holiday decorations, it’s important you follow a few simple tips to keep your home and family safe.

Checking your decorations and electrical equipment for damage is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe this holiday season. Before plugging anything in, inspect electrical outlets to ensure they aren’t loose, damaged, or cracked. You should also look for damage to your decorations themselves, like cracked bulbs and frayed electrical cords, and refrain from using decorations with these problems.

Avoid overloading your electrical outlets. If you’re using incandescent light strings to decorate your home or your tree, never plug more than one of these strings into a single outlet. Also, don’t plug multiple high-wattage decorations into one outlet. Either of these decorating missteps can easily overload the outlet and increase your risk for a house fire.

Buy the right decorations. When you’re shopping for your indoor and outdoor decorations, look for items that have been certified by an independent testing laboratory. This means a decoration has been successfully safety-tested.

Lastly, make sure you unplug your electrical decorations whenever you leave your house and when you go to sleep at night. Many electrical fires occur when homeowners are asleep or out of the home, so taking this extra precaution is an important safety tip.

If you want to enjoy a safe holiday season, follow each of these electrical safety tips. Using electrical decorations responsibly can help protect your family from harm while you also transform your home for the holidays.

10 Questions to Ask Your Contractor

Hiring a Contractor

What questions to ask your contractor in advance of hiring them.  Most homeowners have some concerns when it comes to hiring home improvement professionals. Some are afraid of overpaying, some worry that they’re hiring an unqualified professional, and others wonder about the character of the individuals they’re inviting into their homes. Asking these ten questions can help alleviate all of these concerns.

1. How long have you been in the business or working in the industry?

Look for a credible track record and successful work experience.

2. Are you licensed, insured and bonded?

At the very least, make sure your pro is licensed and carries worker’s comp and liability insurance. Bonding is not a universal requirement. Think of bonding as homeowner insurance that protects you in case of an incomplete job.

3. Do you guarantee your work in writing?

While a verbal guarantee is nice, it offers no guarantees that the contractor will actually stand behind his work. Draft a written guarantee that states exactly what is and isn’t covered.

4. Can you provide references?

Ratings and reviews are a great resource, especially when coupled with references from previous customers. Ask your contractor to provide a list of references. Don’t hire pros who can’t offer references. I would also advise researching the Better Business Bureau to see any complaints that may have been filed against the company.

5. Do you pull all the required permits?

Failing to pull the requited permits can cost you in the long run. Have your contractor pull the necessary paperwork and permits to get your job started. Also require that they deliver copies of all closed permits once the job is completed. If your contractor is hesitant, find a new pro.

6. Who will be managing the project?

If your contractor isn’t in charge of your job, insist on meeting the project manager to ensure he measures up to your standards.

7. What is the project timeline and daily work schedule?

Construction scheduling is never perfect. Workers get sick, orders get delayed and weather causes interruptions. But an organized contractor will provide you with a work schedule that clearly outlines a start and end date.

8. Will you need water or bathroom facilities?

Most contractors are self-sufficient enough to bring their own water. But, unless your job is a major remodel that necessitates bringing in a port-a-john, there’s a good chance your workers will need to use your facilities. Dedicate a bathroom (or bathrooms) to your workers before you start your project.

9. Will you need my garage code or keys to my house? Who will have access?

Many homeowners feel uncomfortable handing over the keys to their home. Unless you plan on staying home during the construction, you’re going to need to give your contractor access to your house. Knowing who has the keys to your home will give you peace of mind.  You may feel confident with your ongoing security if you plan on having your locks rekeyed after the project is completed.

10. Will you sign a contract?

All worthwhile contractors will write out a clear contract that defines the work to be performed, as well as the material, costs and completion timeframes associated with the project. Thorough contracts also cover what happens if the project becomes problematic. This is known as a time and materials contract. The contract should also include a termination clause that spells out the circumstances in which both parties are allowed to terminate the contract.

DO NOT PAY IN FULL UNTIL THE ENTIRE PROJECT IS COMPLETED AND YOU ARE SATISFIED WITH THE WORK.

 

Tax Considerations When Deciding to Relocate.

Florida retains its ranking as one of the nation’s lowest-tax states, according to the latest study released by Florida TaxWatch. Out of 50 states, Florida ranks No. 42 in the average amount of money paid by residents.
Florida TaxWatch findings:
  • Floridians pay an average $5,679 per person in state and local taxes
  • Residents pay an average $2,584 in state taxes – one of the least amounts nationwide. Only the residents of one other state pay less.
  • However, local tax burdens are higher. “Per Capita Local Tax Collections” ranked No. 27 nationally.
  • In the balance between state and local taxes, Florida relies more heavily on local revenue than almost all other states and is No. 2 nationwide. Local taxes account for 53.3 percent of the total.
  • With property taxes, Florida ranks a solid “average” score – No. 25. The state’s per capita property tax ranking is right at the median – 25th.
  • Florida also classifies 38.7 percent of its state and local revenue as non-tax revenue (such as “fees”) – the 7th largest percentage in the nation.
  • Florida relies more heavily on transaction taxes, such as general and sales taxes. They make up, 81.5 percent of all state tax collections compared to the national average of 47.2 percent.
  • Florida has the highest state and local selective sales (excise) taxes on utilities in the nation. The tax on motor fuels is No. 15; the tax on alcoholic beverages is No. 19.
  • Florida’s housing sector produces significant revenue, and the state’s documentary stamp taxes are rising rapidly post-recession. It collected an average of $276 per capita in 2006, $72 in 2009, and $130 per capita in 2016 – the nation’s second-largest doc-tax burden.
  • Florida is one of seven states without a personal income tax. The average state relies on personal income taxes for 37.0 percent of its tax revenue.
  • Businesses pay 51.7 percent of all Florida state and local taxes – the 12th highest percentage in the nation.

Tax Deductions to Take in 2017 Before They Disappear

As you’ve no doubt heard, the U.S. tax code got an overhaul—so what does that mean for the 2017 return you’re filing right about now? It means that this is your last chance to take advantage of tax deductions from the old tax code.
Here is a rundown of four major tax breaks that are disappearing after this filing year, and how to take full advantage of them for 2017.
Home Office Deduction
With the increasing popularity of telecommuting and working from home, the home office tax deduction is one that many people opt to take. If you’re full-time self-employed, this deduction will continue in 2018. But for all you office workers who work in your “home office” on the occasional Friday? The gig is up.
“In 2018, for non-self-employed people, the home office deduction is going away entirely,” says Eric Bronnenkant, CPA, CFP, and Betterment’s head of tax. If you are a W-2 employee this is the last year you will be able to take advantage of the home office deduction. The home office deduction falls under what’s called “miscellaneous deductions,” and includes business expenses that are not reimbursed by your employer. Miscellaneous deductions can’t exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income, but if you meet the requirements, you can take the deduction in 2017.
Unlimited property tax
One of the biggest changes for homeowners in the new tax bill is the cap on deducting property taxes.
In the past all property taxes were tax-deductible. Yet going forward in 2018, the maximum you can deduct is $10,000, and that includes state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax.
That means if you pay more than $10,000 a year between your state and local income taxes, property tax, and sales tax, anything exceeding that amount is no longer deductible. For your 2017 return, make sure every penny you pay in property taxes is deducted, along with your state and local taxes—or, if you’re in a state without income tax, a portion of the sales tax you paid.
Moving expenses
If you moved in 2017, lucky you: You’re the last to take advantage of the ability to deduct your moving expenses, provided your move meets certain requirements (e.g., your new job is at least 50 miles farther away than your old job was from your old home).”Previously, people could deduct all the expenses associated with [relocation] moving,” says Priya Mishra, the managing attorney at Top Tax Defenders. “This will now be gone.”
The only exception going forward, according Patrick Leddy, a tax partner at Farmand, Farmand, and Farmand LLP, will be members of the armed forces. So if work took you to a new locale last year, don’t forget to dig up your receipts and deduct those moving expenses.
Interest on a home equity loan for non-home improvement purposes
A home equity loan is money you borrow using your home as collateral. This “second mortgage” (because it’s in addition to your original home loan) often takes the form of a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). Traditionally, the interest on these loans could be deducted up to $100,000 for married joint filers and $50,000 for individuals. The best part? You could use that money to pay for anything—college tuition, a wedding, you name it.
But starting in 2018, home equity loan interest is deductible only if it’s used for one purpose: to “buy, build, or improve” your home, according to the IRS. So if you’re dying to update your kitchen or add a half-bath, you’ll get a tax break from Uncle Sam. But if you want to tap your home equity to go to grad school, well, that’s on you.
More bad news: Unlike the mortgage interest deduction where loans taken before 2018 could be grandfathered into the old laws, old home equity loans have no such exemption. People with existing HELOC debt take the hit just like homeowners applying for one now.
But there is one small loophole: To reclaim this deduction, you could refinance your second mortgage and your first into a new mortgage that lumps together both debts. This essentially turns your HELOC into a regular mortgage, which means that you can deduct that interest. Just remember that refinancing can be costly, and that this new loan will be subject to the new, smaller limits on deducting mortgage interest. In loans originating on or before Dec. 14, 2017, that limit is $1 million. On loans made after that point, the cap is $750,000.
Will I owe more taxes next year?
Worried about losing all of these deductions? Though the new tax plan is drastically changing how most people will file their taxes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up owing more. Limits on mortgage interest deductions may be dropping, but so are the tax rates for most income groups. While the amount of property tax you can deduct is shrinking, the standard deduction is growing. So, it may all balance out.
The most important thing to do, after making sure you’ve grabbed all of the tax deductions you can for 2017, is to sit down with your accountant or financial advisor and size up where the new tax laws leave you.That will give you plenty of time to prepare for 2018 taxes and beyond.

Housing Starts Heating Up!

New Construction Assistance
Housing Starts and consumer inflation heated up in January, but Retail Sales and Existing Home Sales stayed on the chilly side.

The Commerce Department reported that January Housing Starts jumped 9.7 percent from December to an annual rate of 1.326 million units. This was the highest level since October 2016 and up 7.3 percent from January 2017. Single-family starts, which account for the largest share of the market, rose 3.7 percent from December while multi-dwelling starts with five or more units surged 19.7 percent. Housing Starts rose in the Northeast, South and West but declined in the Midwest.

Building Permits, a sign of future construction, rose 7.4 percent from December to an annual rate of 1.396 million units. With many buyers facing inventory shortages across much of the country, this strong report regarding new home construction is a welcome sign!

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that January Existing Home Sales declined 3.2 percent from December to an annual rate of 5.38 million units. Sales were down 4.8 percent from a year ago, the largest decline since August 2014. Low inventories of homes for sale were indeed a thorn in the side of would-be buyers with just a 3.4-month supply available at the current sales pace. A 6-month supply is considered healthy.

Retail Sales also disappointed in January, as the Commerce Department reported a 0.3 percent decrease. December’s reading was also revised downward to 0 percent from a 0.4 percent increase. The key highlight was that consumer spending wasn’t strong in recent months, and this could impact GDP expectations.

Consumer inflation edged higher in January, with an important component jumping to a 12-month high! The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.5 percent in January, just above expectations due to higher gasoline prices, the Labor Department reported. Core CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.3 percent from December. This was the largest increase in a year, boosted by rising rents.

Inflation reduces the value of fixed investments like Mortgage Bonds. This means signs of inflation can hurt Mortgage Bonds and impact the home loan rates tied to them, which is a trend we’ve seen through much of this year. Stocks have also reacted negatively to hints that inflation was on the rise because inflation brings higher rates and higher rates hurt corporate borrowing. Stocks even entered correction territory in early February, meaning a 10 percent decline from recent highs.