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Serving South Florida

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For over 30 years

Home Financing

Tips for Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

Seller's market
Seller's market

Buying a home in a Seller’s market always has its challenges. But when you’re trying to do it in a seller’s market, the difficulty can reach a new level. When the market favors the seller, time is of the essence. Multiple offers happen with more regularity in a seller’s market than a buyer’s market, because a seller’s market is defined in part by low inventory and a surplus of home buyers. A beautiful home that is priced well can attract more than one offer.

In a seller’s market, you should always assume you’re competing against several other offers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a new home in a seller’s market, when there are more buyers than homes, and sellers can afford to hold out for higher offers. You just need to make sure you do it right and arm yourself with the right information:

Here are a few things to consider as you prepare your offer when buying in a seller’s market:

Choose an Experienced REALTOR: In sports and in business, it’s important to have the best players on your team when facing fierce competition. In a seller’s market, that means choosing a real estate agent who not only has proven expertise in the neighborhoods you’re interested in but is also highly responsive and efficient. Make sure to use an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent that owes you a fiduciary and works in your best interest.

Demonstrate Credit Worthiness: You should get Pre-Approved for a home mortgage with a local lender before touring homes if you need to get financing. By obtaining a pre-approval for a mortgage before you start home shopping, you’ll know how much buying power you have. Your offer may have far more credibility than competing ones where buyers didn’t take this step.

Lower Your Expectations: When the inventory of homes is limited, you probably can’t afford to wait for the perfect house to hit the market. Prepare yourself to adjust your expectations. It makes the most sense to make exceptions to your criteria for things that can be changed. For example, you can renovate or add a bathroom someday, but you can’t change the home’s location or lot size.

Make your Best Offer first, be Ready to Bid: Make your best offer but be prepared for it not to be your final offer. High home prices can lead to home appraisals that don’t climb as fast, leaving lenders to not fund the loan. Home buyers should have money set aside the pay the difference between a contracted purchase price and the appraisal.

By Prepared to Make Concessions: Your relative lack of power in a seller’s market doesn’t just affect the question of price. It carries over to every other aspect of the deal, too. Shorten the inspection period, be flexible on closing dates; you should be prepared to accommodate the seller’s needs even if it is an inconvenience to you.

Don’t be that buyer who wants to wait until the weekend to view a home in a seller’s market. By the weekend, that home could be sold. Try to be one of the first showings. Sellers usually don’t enjoy having buyers come through their homes at all hours of the day, so most would like to see their home sold quickly. If you write a good, fast, and clean offer, your chances of acceptance are far better than those of a buyer who is unprepared or is unrealistic on price.

Finally, don’t get carried away with the pressure to buy, even in a seller’s market. Remember that a home decision has a long-term impact on your financial future. It may be better to let a house go than make a poor decision that’s expensive to change.

Should You Refinance During The COVID-19 Situation?

Covid-19 and Refi

Covid-19 and Refi

Rates are lower than ever; when a refinancing is done right, it can save you thousands of dollars. But not every potential refi makes the cut. Sometimes the expenses just don’t justify the potential savings.

It is time to refinance your home mortgage if the terms lower your mortgage interest rate, pay off their mortgage years earlier, or saves thousands in interest over the life of the loan. You can save serious money by refinancing your mortgage. But due to refinancing fees and expenses, not every refi makes financial sense.

COVID-19 is creating changes with lenders and how they are doing business. This is resulting in refinancing taking longer and getting stricter than it has been in the past. Although the mortgage process is considered essential as a financial transaction, depending on where you live, there may be changes related to COVID-19  involving your appraisal, rate lock and closing process.

Rates are quite low and because your home is your biggest financial investment, the equity can be very useful as a resource in times of trouble. But if you’re thinking of financing your home loan there are several steps you should take to make sure that it’s the right move for you.

How Long Do You Plan On Being In Your Home?

Being able to answer this question will help you figure out the term length you want on any refinanced mortgage; but there’s another reason asking this question …

If you plan on moving within the next 5 – 10 years, it could be worth your while to look at an adjustable rate mortgage ( ARM).  You get a lower rate initially with an ARM because the rate can adjust after the teaser period. But if you move before the end of the fixed-rate time frame, you don’t have to worry about whether the rate is going up and down in the end. Additionally, your payment will tend to be lower because most adjustable rate mortgages are based on 30-year terms.

Age Of Current Loan

The age of your current loan sometimes plays a role in whether you can refinance. Even if you can refinance, it does not always make sense.  When you refinance you have to pay closing costs.  If you are not planning on staying in the house past the breakeven point when the savings and the additional expenses paid starts to net to overall reduced costs for home ownership, the it is not the time to refinance.  You may want to accelerate buying a new home to realize the saving from lower interest rates.

Plans For Monthly Savings

If you determine that you’re going to save money by refinancing based on the rate and term you can get, make sure that you have a plan for what you’re going to do with the monthly savings in order to put yourself in a better financial position. No one knows exactly when COVID-19 is going to end and how long it will take for the economy to recover. If you can save money now, you can work on establishing the savings need should the vaccine be delayed or we continue with a longer recession

You could use your savings to build up an emergency fund. Maybe you choose to allow yourself to save money in the future by paying off high-interest debt now. You can also use this to catch up on saving for retirement if you stopped contributing temporarily while dealing with the situation caused by the virus.

It’s a very volatile market right now, so we advise all of our clients to rely on the advice of their Home Loan Expert and Financial Advisors at all times.

The Mortgage Refi Process

Approving a mortgage is a complicated process, one that requires a lender to validate a borrower’s income, check the value of the home being used as collateral and scrutinize the title history of the property.

Just as refinancing applications picked up, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed the way everyone in the mortgage industry works. Loan officers no longer go to the office. Appraisers stopped walking through houses. And no one gathers around the title company’s closing table. The process is a little slower because everybody’s working from home right now. Things that would take an hour to do are taking a day sometimes.

It is more difficult to verify a borrower’s employment. A task once dispatched with a quick call to the borrower’s human resources department now means leaving a voicemail and waiting a day or two for a response.

Meanwhile, homeowners looking to refinance may have to get in line behind buyers who need a mortgage so they can close on a house which are a priority with lenders.

The mortgage industry already had been digitizing, and lenders quickly adapted to many changes. One stumbling block, though, is that most lenders still require some documents to be signed in the presence of a legal witness and notarized.  Florida allows for mobile notaries and they are busier than ever.

Sometimes, documents are being signed remotely and online and mobile notaries are not allowed yet.  You need to allow time for in person notarization and overnight mailing of documents.  Digital closings may be the way of the future, but we are not there yet.

What You Can Do to Secure a Smooth Refinance

Here are a few ways you can make the refi process as smooth as possible:

— Get your paperwork in order. Don’t let something simple like a missing document delay your refinance. Collect PDFs of financial documents, including pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns and retirement accounts.

— Make sure the lender will honor your rate lock. In normal times, lenders extend rate locks for 30 to 60 days, meaning you won’t have to pay more if rates go up before your loan closes. These aren’t normal times, though, and many refinances aren’t closing within 30 to 60 days, so make sure your lender is willing to extend your rate lock if your deal is delayed.

— Keep your credit score tight. Now isn’t the time to miss a payment, take on new debt or otherwise do anything to lower your credit score. Lenders are being especially strict about borrowers’ credit histories.

 

COVID-19 Real Estate Home Buying Process

Real Estate Process
Real Estate Process

COVID-19 Real Estate Home Buying Process

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has labeled residential and commercial real estate as an essential business. Yet, COVID-19 has changed how real estate is conducted not only with how Realtors are showing properties but also how real estate transactions are closed.
One thing is certainly sure: being an “essential” business does not necessarily mean business as usual.
Pre-Closing
The New National Association of Realtors (NAR) guidelines follow and strictly adhere to all CDC safety guidelines. NAR supports and encourages that all brokerage firms order their agents to shelter in place and avoid all social interaction.
Such stay at home mandates and social distancing regulations have pushed real estate agents to become creative. Instead of having open houses, real estate agents are using virtual property showings, and Facebook live open houses. There are programs for customers to even design their home using digital tools, watching videos of the construction as their property is being built. Realtors are doing initial showings over video chat services like Face Time, Skype or Zoom.
Contract
Perhaps the real challenge COVID-19 poses to home buying is not necessarily shopping for the home—rather, it is closing on one.
Issues with contracts focusing on force majeure clauses, or clauses that provide for a delay or opportunity to get out of underlying obligations in the event of unforeseen or uncontrollable events have been an emerging issue during this pandemic.
The development of the COVID-19 Extension Addendum to Contract allows for time periods and dates to be extended as a result of the Corona-virus pandemic.
Closing
Once contract issues are overcome, the closing itself has evolved due to this crisis.
Make sure that you or the Seller only use an escrow and Title company that is capable of handling the closing. Specifically ask whether they use online or mobile notaries. Also determine if the local recorder’s office uses electronic recording and whether the title company is equipped to record the deed electronically.
Many documents in the closing process require a notary, and notarization is normally required to be done-in person. The Florida legislature and Governor signed into law effective January 1, 2020, a new law that allows for what is called remote online notarization (RON). This is a huge game-changer in the State of Florida, particularly in the area of real estate closings. No longer do parties all have to get together at a certain set time around the conference room and execute documents. Now, from the comfort of your own home, provided that you have your own laptop or smart phone, you can execute documents online and remotely and have those documents notarized. While the technology is new, it is not that new. It is the same technology that is used to validate your passport or driver’s license when you go through security at an airport. This validation technology is now being used for remote online notarization (RON).
If, for example, you are in another state and are closing on real estate located in Florida, or, perhaps, you are in a profession (such as being a doctor and on call) that makes it difficult to attend a closing, you can now remotely video into the closing and notarize your documents from the comfort wherever you might be. Documents are produced online for your review, and at the point that you are prepared to execute those documents, you can do so remotely. A notary is present at the time online, not physically with you, and that notary is then able to confirm and validate that you executed the documents without any duress or coercion.
There is a caveat, however, and that is that while remote online notarization, in theory, should work all over the world, it really is more of a domestic service for people within the United States. It is difficult for the technology, at this stage, to validate foreign credentials.
Appraisals and home inspections are other aspects of residential real estate closings are evolving during this pandemic. The Federal Housing Finance Agency is allowing alternative appraisal methods such as “drive by” appraisals where appraisers drive through the neighborhood and walk around a property without going into it. They are also doing “desktop” appraisals using public data to generate property values.
The loan process will likely take longer than in the past and I am encouraging my buyers to agree to no less than a 60 days closing if a loan is needed. You need to take this into consideration with your home buying timeline if you need to close on a property by a certain date.
Moving during a Pandemic
 I recently published an entire BLOG article on this subject which you can read here along with other articles that you may find informative.

Virtual Home Buying Made Easy!

Virtual Homebuying

Virtual Homebuying

Gov. Ron DeSantis enacted stay-at-home orders for Florida effective April 3, but the order considers real estate an “essential service,” so Realtors may continue to operate under limits set by CDC guidelines.
Under the issued Homeland Security guidance, “residential and commercial real services” are included on a 15-page list of essential services. These cover settlement services and government offices that conduct title searches, notaries, and mortgage and recording services, as well as construction. The advisory letter was created by the Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.
Optima Properties is able to continue to service your needs as a Buyer.
Showings:
  • In-person showings are considered a health risk. We can
Zoom, Facetime, or Skype showings
  • Online Video Tours are available on active listings currently and more are being developed every day.
Contracts:
  • Digital Signing of all Contract Documents
  • Zoom, Facetime or Skype Contract Review
Deposits:
  • Wired Earnest Money Deposits
  • Following Wire Fraud Protection ( Voice to Voice Confirmation)
Property Inspections:
  • Electronic Delivery of Inspection Reports
  • Zoom, Facetime or Skype Inspection Review
Mobile Notary:
  • Mobile Notary and Virtual Closings Now Available
House Key Delivery:
  • Non Contract Key Delivery Service Post Closing
Please contact me for all your Real Estate Related Needs.
Stay Home and Stay Safe!

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.

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.

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.

Why Your Mortgage Is Getting More Expensive

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 Mortgage Bankers Association predicts it will rise to 4.6 percent in 2018.
  • The National Association of Realtors expects it be around 4.5 percent at the end of 2018.
  • Realtor.com says the rate will average 4.6 percent and reach 5 percent by year-end.

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.

How To Buy A Second Home?

You’ve found the perfect new home for your family, but your current house hasn’t sold yet. You can’t afford to carry two mortgages, or maybe you were counting on money from your sale to help with the down payment and closing costs.

Before you let that dream home slip away, consider these strategies to help bridge the transition:

Make an offer that’s contingent on the sale of your house:

A seller may be persuaded to accept your offer with the caveat that you’ll have to sell your house before closing on theirs. You’ll strengthen your chances of getting a seller to take a chance on you if you can show that your home is priced properly and has a solid marketing strategy.   Successful contingency offers depend on good communication between the real estate agents representing both sides.  It’s up to you and your agent to reassure the seller that the closing won’t be delayed.  Obviously, in hotter housing markets with potentially multiple bids, it can be harder to get sellers to accept such an offer.

Offer the seller a rent-back option:

One way to buy yourself extra time to complete your sale is to offer to buy the new house, then rent it back to the seller after closing.  A rent-back agreement is typically for just a month or two. But this arrangement can give sellers extra time to move – or to find a new house of their own – while putting a little money in your pocket and keeping you from having to pay two mortgages at once.

Tap the equity in your current home:

If you have a high credit score and considerable equity in your house, you could free up some of the latter with a home equity line of credit. A HELOC lets you use up to 85 percent of your home’s value, less the balance remaining on your mortgage, and is fine-tuned based on your credit profile and income. Most HELOCs have a variable interest rate, so it’s in your best interest to pay off the loan as soon as your current home sells.

This strategy may let you buy a house before you sell, but it’s not a last-minute option. A HELOC requires an appraisal, income verification and a thorough credit check, so it takes time – generally 30 days or more – to qualify, says Tim Beyers, mortgage analyst with American Financing in Aurora, Colorado. If you’re thinking of going this route, make sure you run the numbers with an expert upfront, Beyers says.

To qualify for the new loan, a lender will evaluate your current mortgage payment, plus the HELOC payment and your new monthly mortgage payment, to calculate your debt-to-income ratio for the new mortgage approval, Beyers says. If your income is high enough to have a debt-to-income ratio below 40 percent with all those payments and other monthly expenses taken into account, only then should you consider a HELOC, he adds.

“Once you start dipping into your home’s equity, that changes the equation when you apply for a new mortgage,” he explains. “Taking too much out can hurt your qualification chances on a new mortgage. Don’t make an offer, then try to scramble to do the math.”

Add a HELOC to your new mortgage:

With this strategy, you break up the financing on your new home with a first mortgage for the amount you need, plus a HELOC to make up the difference in your shortfall for a downpayment, says Elise D. Leve, senior mortgage banker at Citizens Bank in New York.

Once you sell your current home, you can pay the HELOC portion off in full and end up with the single mortgage you wanted in the first place, Leve says.

Get a Bridge Loan:

A much riskier strategy is what’s called a ‘bridge’ or ‘swing’ loan. Using your existing home as collateral, you take out a bridge loan for three months to five years to use as the down payment on your new home. Once you’ve purchased your new home, you sell the old one and pay off the mortgage and the bridge loan. Such a loan is less risky in a fast appreciating market where appreciation can cover the extra payment on the old home. Even in the best market, however, swing loans can be expensive, last-ditch propositions that are fraught with caveats. Bridge loans can cost 5 to 10 percentage points more than a typical equity loan. Your home must be lien free. Excellent credit is mandatory, as are good income-to-debt ratios. It may be a better idea to get a cash-out refinance, second mortgage or equity loan to use as a bridge loan. Traditional financing is cheaper and less risky, but that could preclude you from landing another mortgage for a new home should the lender consider you stretched too thin.