- 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.
World events are conspiring to make it more expensive for you to borrow money to buy a house.
Mortgage rates have increased for six consecutive weeks, according to Bankrate data, bringing interest on a 30-year fixed rate loan to 4.44 percent—the highest level in 11 months—while home prices continue to rise due to a lack of available homes.
After years of tepid economic growth, inflation and wage growth recently found a groove, while the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise short-term interest rates multiple times for a consecutive year has reduced the value of government debt.
Homebuyers Should Get off the Fence
Mortgage rates are moved by the yield on 10-year Treasuries, rather than short-term rate hikes by the Fed. That’s why mortgage rates fell throughout 2017, for instance, even as the central bank raised the federal funds rate three times. Rates remain cheap, however, compared to historical prices. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage came with an interest rate above 6 percent just before the Great Recession in 2007. Potential homeowners should get off the fence and make a bid, assuming you have an affordable home target and adequate savings, because rates are likely only heading north.
Mortgage rates are expected to climb in 2018, so it might be worth shopping for a mortgage before this long period of low rates takes a turn.
Here are several predictions from the largest housing and mortgage groups for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage:
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.
After Hurricane Irma, much of Florida lost power. And during Hurricane Maria, all of Puerto Rico is in the dark.
The one-two punch of storms reminded Floridians of the importance of owning a generator. If you’re shopping for a power source, here are factors to consider:
How much do you want to spend?
Stand-by generators can power your whole house and usually run on natural gas or propane. They typically cost $5,000 to $10,000, according to Consumer Reports. And you’ll need to start planning the installation months in advance. Most homeowners opt for portable generators, which usually won’t run central AC and cost $400 to $1,000. (However, Consumer Reports’ top-rated portable generator is a Honda that goes for $3,999.)
What do you want to power?
If you want to run a fridge, a fan and a few lights, a small portable generator will do the job. If you hope to keep living as if the hurricane never hit, you’ll need a stationary generator. And if you’re willing to rough it but would like to run a window AC unit, you’ll want to make sure before the storm that your generator has enough juice to run your AC. Another caveat: Cheap generators can produce power surges that will fry expensive electronics.
How much noise can you stand?
Or, put another way, how many decibels do you want to bombard your neighbors with? In general, the more expensive the generator, the quieter it is.
Technology is getting better.
For decades, Floridians have been buying portable generators that were the mechanical equivalent of muscle cars, says Paul Hope of Consumer Reports. Now, though, manufacturers are designing fuel-injected engines for generators. These models are quieter, more fuel-efficient and emit less carbon monoxide. They’re also more expensive.
The smart move, says Hope, is to shop for a generator between storms or after hurricane season. That gives you time to research what you need — and to hire an electrician to install a transfer switch or interlock device that lets the generator power your house.
As data breaches go, this is one of the most extensive.
The sensitive information of almost half of all Americans has been compromised, all because the company safeguarding that information reportedly failed to upgrade and update software despite being warned to do so.
To make it worse, company execs sold millions in stock after the breach, but before they told the public what had happened. The company continued to sell consumers like you pricey identity protection packages, even though they knew they were guilty of exposing that same consumer data to hackers. And it seems they suffered another hack earlier in the year but failed to notify us of the potential damage.
No wonder consumers feel helpless as they try to protect themselves from identity fraud.
Here’s what you should you be doing now in response to the Equifax breach.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put together some very helpful and comprehensive background information on the Equifax breach, chock full of consumer tips. You can read that guidance here.
Do a test
Visit the Equifax website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to see if your personal data has been exposed.
Here’s the how-to’s from the FTC: “Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.”
Monitor your credit
If you’re affected, sign up for the year of free credit monitoring that Equifax is offering. Even if you are not affected, you should monitor your credit to make sure no one else is taking out loans in your name. (Many big-name credit card companies offer free credit monitoring as a cardholder perk. Use it).
Once a year, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major bureaus (Experian®, Equifax®, TransUnion®) at annualcreditreport.com.
Here’s some additional advice from credit card lender Capital One: “It’s important to review all three reports—some lenders don’t report to every bureau, so they may have different information. Read through each report carefully and make sure you recognize the accounts. If something strange turns up, start by contacting the lender to investigate. For more info, take a look at this article on checking your credit report.”
Practice safe financial habits
Keep a close eye on your finances by reconciling bank accounts and credit card statements monthly, shred financial papers, change passwords often, use different passwords for different financial accounts, be careful what you click on, and practice safe computer habits.
It’s not a bad idea to enroll in purchase notification programs with your bank or credit card providers. They’ll alert you by text or email if there are large or unusual purchases in your accounts. Some even let you lock or unlock your card via mobile app. (I’ve got some funny stories to share about the purchase alerts I’ve gotten for my college age kids. Definitely TMI).
Fraud alerts and freezes
There’s been a lot of talk about fraud alerts and freezes. Putting afraud alert on your credit reports lets potential lenders know what’s going on, explains Capital One, and alerts them to take extra steps to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.
According to Capital One, “you only need to notify one of the three credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit report and they’re required to tell the other two companies. Make sure you keep copies of all letters and renew the alert every 90 days until the issue is resolved. You can also check out the Federal Trade Commission’s website for more information.”
A credit freeze provides more protection but is time-consuming. A freeze restricts access to your credit report. Without reviewing that info, few lenders will open a new account for you. “This makes it harder for potential thieves to apply for credit or open accounts in your name,” says Capital One. However, freezing your accounts may involve service charges, takes time on the phone or online, and can get in your way the day you want to buy a new car or make some other consumer purchase using credit. To learn more about credit freezes, click here.
The Internet is full of checklists and resources to use if you are planning to move. There are packing timelines. There are lists of packing supplies. There are even directions on how to pack boxes.
But moving is much more than purging and organizing your personal affects. There are legal tasks you need to take care of too.
Here are 5 legal tasks to complete when you move:
- Read your leases: Review your current lease to make sure you will not get into trouble for leaving. You are responsible for paying rent for the entire lease term, even if you have vacated the premises. If you need to move before the lease term is expired, read the lease to see if you can sublet or assign to a new tenant. Check your new lease for these terms before you sign it. And make sure you complete these tasks to protect your rights as a tenant.
- Protect yourself with insurance: Thoroughly read any contract with a moving company before you sign it for delivery times and insurance coverage. Moving companies are required to provide some moving insurance. But you may wish to purchase more. You should also consider renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance.
- Notify your creditors: Update your address with all of your creditors to ensure you do not miss a payment. And be sure to complete a change of address with the United States Postal Service and request that your mail be forwarded to your new address.
- Keep receipts if you are relocating for a job: You may be able to write off your expenses if you are required to relocate more than 50 miles due to a job change. Review the Internal Revenue Service’s requirements to qualify for this tax break.
- Update your estate plan: State laws governing wills and estate plans differ. If you move to a different state, update your estate plan.
- Register your vehicles:If you’ve moved states, provinces or countries, register your car and get a new driver’s license, tags and/or plates for your vehicles. Check your local DMV for more information.
- Register to Vote: Again, if you’ve moved cities, it’s important to make sure you’re on the voter’s registration for your local area. You should also make sure you’ve updated all important files and documents with your new address.
If a flood swamps your home, will insurance cover the damage? That depends on the value of your home, the amount of water damage and whether you have a flood insurance policy.
Let’s look at some persistent myths about flood insurance.
Myth: You must live in a flood plain to get coverage.
If you live in a flood plain, your mortgage company will likely require you to buy flood insurance. But you can purchase it even if you don’t live within a flood zone. “Almost anybody can get flood insurance who wants flood insurance,” says Chris Hackett, director of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. The price through the federal flood insurance program is based on standardized rates and depends on the home’s value and whether or not it’s in a flood plain.
Myth: Flood insurance covers everything.
When it comes to the physical structure of your house, federal flood insurance policies top out at $250,000. If you have a $300,000 house that’s a total loss because of a flood, the most you can recoup through the program is $250,000 to cover the structure itself. For your personal possessions, the cap is $100,000 under the federal program.
Myth: My homeowners policy covers floods.
“Unfortunately, a lot of folks may be under the impression that their standard homeowners policy might cover flood damage,” Hackett says. But the standard policy does not! The typical home insurance policy doesn’t cover earthquakes or floods. So a homeowner wanting coverage for either of those disasters will need to pick up separate, specific coverage against those types of disasters.
Myth: Water damage is water damage. When it comes to your insurance, not all water damage is the same.
If there’s a storm and your “roof comes off and water comes through, that would be covered under your homeowners policy,” Hackett says. “Versus a flood situation where the water is rising from an over flowing riverbank overflows or an unnatural amount of rain that is rising from the street.
Myth: Flood maps don’t change.
Flood plains (and flood plain maps) change and evolve. Just because you weren’t in a flood plain when you bought your home a few years ago doesn’t mean you’re not in one now.
For more information, visit FloodSmart.gov.