Southern California home prices jumped in December, reaching the highest level in more than nine years.
An improving economy and a shortage of homes for sale propelled prices up 6.8% from a year earlier, real estate data firm CoreLogic said Tuesday. December’s median price of $470,000 was up 1.1% from a month earlier.
In Los Angeles County, the median price last month climbed 4% from a year earlier to $520,000; in Orange County, 5.3% to $665,000; in Ventura County, 5.9% to $519,000; in San Bernardino County, 8.7% to $299,000; in Riverside County, 8% to $345,750; and in San Diego County, 4.2% to $495,000.
The rise in last month’s six-county median price comes after prices stayed largely flat since June, when the regional median hit $465,000 — which at the time was a nine-year high.
An estate plan is a collection of documents to ensure that your wishes are carried out because of death or incapacity to make decisions for yourself. Spouses, minor children, adult children, property and investments can all be factors that should motivate a person to undergo the process.
Will – this document specifies the way a person wants to manage and distribute his/her assets after their death. When a person dies without a will, the laws of the state where the person resided will determine the distribution of the property.
Durable Power of Attorney – this document grants to a designated person the authority to act on behalf of the principal in in legal affairs should the principal become incapacitated. Among other things, this would allow the attorney-in-fact to buy and sell property on the behalf of the principal.
Healthcare Proxy – this document grants that a designated person can legally make healthcare decisions on behalf of the principal when they are incapable of making and executing specific decisions stated in the proxy.
Living Will – this document directs physicians with respect to life-prolonging medical treatments in case they become unable to communicate their decisions.
Hippa Release – this document allows heath care providers to release your health care information to a designated person. Otherwise, they are required by federal law to protect the privacy of your health information.
Letter of Instruction – This document contains information and instructions about a person’s wishes upon death. It is intended to offer details on whom to contact and where to find important documents about personal and financial matters.
Requirements of these documents can vary from state to state and legal advice should be obtained. If you need a current estimate of value on real estate that may be involved, usually a price opinion from a licensed real estate professional will suffice. It would be my privilege to assist you with this at no cost or obligation.
U.S. taxpayers have enjoyed specific tax benefits for home ownership since personal income tax was introduced by the 16th amendment in 1913. While these benefits may not be the primary reason that motivates a person to buy a home, they are still tangible and not available to tenants.
The exclusion of capital gains tax on the profit made from a home is unique from other investments and provides homeowners significant savings. Single taxpayers can exclude up to $250,000 gain and married taxpayers up to $500,000 gain. During the five-year period ending on the date of sale, a taxpayer must have: owned the home for at least two years; lived in the home as their main home for at least two years; and, ownership and use do not have to be continuous nor occur at the same time.
Gain on the sale of a principal residence in excess of the allowed exclusion are taxed at the lower long-term capital gain rate of the owner.
A homeowner may take the standard deduction or itemized deductions in any tax year based on which will create the largest deduction. Property taxes and qualified mortgage interest are allowable itemized deductions.
Qualified mortgage interest is acquisition debt plus home equity debt not to exceed the maximum amounts. Acquisition debt is the amount of debt incurred to buy, build or improve a first and second home up to $1,000,000. Home equity debt is limited to $100,000 over the current acquisition debt on the combination of a first and second home and may be used for any purpose.
For more information, see your tax advisor or see IRS Publications 523, Selling Your Home and 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.
The National Association of REALTORS® reports in its 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers that 12% of all buyers paid cash for their home.
Before paying cash for a home, a buyer should decide if they might put a loan on the home in the near future. It may affect the ability to deduct the interest on a mortgage placed on the home at a later date.
Homeowners can currently deduct the interest on up to $1 million of acquisition debt which are the borrowed funds used to buy, build or improve a home. Paying cash for a home establishes acquisition debt at zero. The only deductible interest to the owner would be home equity debt which is limited to $100,000 over acquisition debt.
Paying cash certainly seems like a simple decision but it may limit a homeowner’s ability to deduct interest on a future mortgage. You can get more information about this from IRS Publication 936 or from your tax professional.
Lenders regularly publish mortgage rates but they may not be available for all buyers.
Imagine that the mortgage payment based on an advertised rate influenced a buyer to make an offer on a home. After negotiating a binding contract, this buyer makes a loan application and finds out that for any number of possible reasons, that rate isn’t available.
Even if the person does financially qualify for a loan at a higher interest rate, it will not be the payment that the buyer expected when the contract was negotiated.
Lenders evaluate several factors such as the borrower’s credit score, debt-to-income and loan-to-value ratios. These variables are used to assess the risk associated with the repayment of the loan.
While mortgage money is a commodity, it isn’t priced the same way items are that involve cash for goods. The lender puts up the money today based on a promise from the borrower to repay over a long term, possibly up to thirty years.
The simple solution to avoid surprises such as the one described here is to get pre-approved at the beginning of the home search process. Since pre-qualification does not mean the same thing to all lenders, call if you’d like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.
Single-family homes offer an investor the ability to borrow large loan-to-value amounts at fixed interest rates for long terms on appreciating assets, tax advantages and reasonable control. Some of these characteristics are not available through other investments.
75-80% loan-to-value mortgages are available on most residential properties up to four units. Comparatively, the stock market allows you to borrow up to 50% on a stock but if the price goes down, they will require additional cash to keep the ratio at or below 50%. If it isn’t available, your stock can be sold to satisfy the loan.
Real estate investors call getting a long-term mortgage putting an investment to bed. The fixed-rate and the 20-30 year terms are exceptions to loans for most other investments, if they’re available at all.
Real estate tends to go up in value over time. There can be a lot of variables that affect the price like supply and demand, condition and available mortgage money, in addition to the general economy.
Rental real estate has several different tax advantages. The profits are taxed at lower, long-term capital gains rates for investors who have owned the property for more than 12 months. While the property is being rented, investors are given a non-cash deduction based on cost recovery of the improvements. Tax deferred exchanges can also be available if specific conditions are met which allow an investor to postpone paying the tax on the gain.
It isn’t necessary to have a partner with most rental homes if the investor can qualify for the mortgage. This allows investor control to make all the decisions that an owner is entitled such as setting the rent, making improvements and determining when to sell.
Rental real estate can earn a much higher rate of return than other available investments while providing income during the holding period. It certainly is worth investigating the possibility with a real estate professional who understands and works with rental properties.