Investing in Real Estate Rentals

Real estate investments are a large percentage of all home sales, accounting for 24 percent of real estate transactions in 2012, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. If you are looking to feather your retirement nest, rental properties can provide an additional source of monthly income. They’re also a good way to diversify you investment portfolio if your 401(k) or other retirement plans are primarily held in stocks and bonds.

To determine if investing in a rental property is the right choice for you, here are a few things to consider.

Figuring out the dollars and sense

The first step is to calculate the potential cash flow; this is the amount of money a property brings in and the amount you need to pay out to cover expenses. It’s not uncommon for rental properties to start out having a negative cash flow which means that the amount you collect for rent does not cover the mortgage payment. If that is the case, you need to determine whether you feel comfortable making this additional cash outlay each month. Here’s how to estimate what your monthly cash flow will be.

1.Estimate your income

The first step is to determine the amount of rent you can charge for the property. Look at what comparable homes (same size, location, amenities) are renting for in your area. You can get a good idea by browsing craigslist, Zillow or Trulia for rental properties. When estimating your income, allow for the amount of time that your property may be vacant. Most landlords factor in about five percent per year; however, figures vary depending on the current rental market in your area.

2.Tally up your expenses

Your monthly mortgage payment and property taxes are your largest expenses. You may also end up picking up the tab for utilities, such as garbage, water, or gas. Again, check what comparable rental properties are offering in your market. If you do plan on paying utilities, use your own usage as a ballpark estimate.

Property insurance is another cost. Your insurance company can tell you what the premium will be if you utilize the property as a rental.

Rental properties need repairs and maintenance just like any other home. Appliances break, plumbing leaks, fixtures wear out. Figure on spending about one percent of the property’s value per year on maintenance, repairs, and cleaning.

Finding a good tenant always pays in the long run, but it does take time and money to conduct and effective search. If you use a property management company or rental broker, include those fees. If you are conducting the tenant search yourself, add in any advertising expenses and a nominal cost, about $30, for running credit checks on prospective tenants.

The good news about all these operating and maintenance expenses is that they may be deducted from your rental income on your taxes. If you’re thinking about upgrading the property, keep in mind that expenses related to improvements to the property must be depreciated over time, rather than deducted in the year paid. Improvements are designed as actions that add to the value of the property or substantially prolong its life. Examples include adding a new bathroom, remodeling a kitchen, installing insulation or building a deck.

3.Calculate the cash flow

Now total all the monthly expenses and subtract that number from your estimated monthly income to determine your cash flow. To fully evaluate the investment, you also want to factor in the tax write-off benefits of depreciation. Depreciation is an accounting deduction that the IRS allows you to take for the overall wear and tear that occurs on the home over time. Only the building can be depreciated, not that land. The value of a residential structure is depreciated over 27 ½ years at a rate of 3.64 percent of the building value per year. For example, if you buy a residential rental property for $300,000, and the building is worth $200,000, you can take $7,280 each year as a depreciation deduction ($200,000 x .0364)

In addition, if your rental property shows a loss for the year, you may be able to deduct the loss on your tax return. It’s a good idea to consult with your tax advisor to help determine which deductions you qualify for and other tax implications for your situation.

For more information on Windermere Evergreen please contact us here.


Posted on December 15, 2017 at 10:21 am
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Buying & Selling | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Multigenerational Real Estate Trends

When making an important decision like buying a new home, personal circumstances are often a driving force. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer, need more space for your growing family, downsizing to fit an empty nest, or looking for a retirement property, finding the right information, the right real estate agent, and the right properties that fit your needs are all important parts of that process. Based on recent studies by the National Association of REALTORS® on generational trends, we can identify the best resources to help you in any phase of your life.

Among all generations, the first step most buyers take when searching for a home is online. Younger generations tend to find the home they eventually purchase online, while older generations generally find the home they purchase through their real estate agent.

Across generations, home ownership still represents a significant step in achieving the American Dream. According to a study by LearnVest, an online financial resource, 77 percent of those surveyed believed that buying a home of their own was, “first and foremost in achieving the American Dream”.

Millennials:

1980-2000

Also known as Generation Y or the Echo Boomers because this generation almost equals the baby boomers in population. This age group is the second largest group of recent homebuyers, representing 28 percent according to the National Association of REALTORS . Seventy nine percent of homebuyers in this age are purchasing their first home. According to the 2012 Trulia American Dream Study, ninety three percent of renters in this generation plan on purchasing a home someday.

When considering a home purchase, Millennials (and some Generation X buyers) place a high value on convenience to work, affordability, and the quality of school district. This generation is the most likely to choose an urban center as the location of their first home. According to market research by Gfk Roper, this group is most interested in their home being a social hub, with a focus on entertainment and amenities.

When looking for a real estate agent, Millennials are most likely to looks to friends and family for a referral. They generally place a high value on an agent’s honesty and trustworthiness because they are often relying on their agent to walk them through the home purchase process for the first time.

Generation X:

1965-1979

As the largest group of recent homebuyers, the LearnVest findings suggest that 72 percent of Americans in this generation are already homeowners. They also represent the largest group of home sellers, with a substantial percentage of the group looking to upgrade their home to accommodate their growing families or increase investment. Experts in the real estate industry expect this group to lead in the recovered real estate market.

Generation X households are more likely to have a dual income, with both adult members in the household working. According to a study by GfK Roper, a market research company, this generation placed state-of-the-art kitchens at the top of their priorities, as well as large closets and amenities for organization, since many Gen Xers have children living in their homes. They are less concerned about formality in their home and have less interest in formal dining and living rooms.

Baby Boomers:

1946-1964

Interestingly enough, the NAR study finds that as the age of the homebuyer increases, the age of the home being purchased declines. Baby boomers and older buyers are looking for newer construction, with less need for renovations or large maintenance issues. This generation ranks state-of-the-art kitchens, whirlpool baths, walk-in closets, and hobby spaces high on their list of must-haves, according to GfK Roper.

The boomer generation is also looking to the future for both themselves and their aging parents, “fourteen percent of homebuyers over the age of 48 are looking to purchase senior-related homes, for themselves or others” according to the NAR study. Boomer parents are becoming accustomed to (or preparing for) an empty nest, so this group may be downsizing or looking for a home that specifically fits their needs.

Silent Generation:

1925-1945

This generation of buyers places a bigger emphasis on finding a home closer to friends, family, and health facilities. While this generation uses the Internet to find their home in the early stages of a home search, they work more directly with a trusted real estate agent to find the home that specifically fits their needs. A home purchase for members of this generation will likely not be a first-time experience so they are less willing to compromise on the price, size, or condition of a home. This generation is generally more satisfied with the homebuying and selling process because they have been through it before and know what to expect. According to the Trulia American Dream study, this group is also most likely to have realistic assumptions about the cost of a home and mortgage.

For more information on Windermere Evergreen please contact us here.


Posted on December 14, 2017 at 9:18 pm
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Buying & Selling | Tagged , , , , , , ,

25 Ways to Make the Most of Small Spaces

Suburban homes—with their large spaces, big yards, and separate bedrooms for every child—will always be popular with families, especially families of four or more. But there’s also a contingent today that’s eager to live in a dense urban setting: a high-rise condominium in the downtown core, a small home in an urban neighborhood, a small apartment, or even a shared housing arrangement. For those people, designing, furnishing, and organizing these living spaces will require a very different approach.

Urban living spaces are usually much smaller than suburban homes, which means, if you use traditional furnishing and space-planning techniques, you’re bound to be frustrated by the outcome. But with a little planning and creativity, you can create a fully functional space that belies its size.

Small-space planning ideas

  • Start with the biggest, most important piece in each room (the sofa, the dining room table, the bathroom sink, etc.), then plan the rest of the space around that item.
  • Focus on the needs of those who will be living in the home full-time. Leave any accommodations for guests until later.
  • Work to make every space multifunctional (e.g., a kitchen island that can also be used for eating; a home office that can also function as a TV room and/or guest room).
  • Look for any opportunity to increase the amount of sunlight. Install glass doors and skylights, and leave windows unobstructed.
  • The fewer walls separating spaces, the more open and spacious it will appear.
  • Traditional staircases are an inefficient use of space. If you’re designing from the ground up, consider a spiral staircase instead.
  • Light paint colors (especially white) will make a room look more spacious. The combination of light walls with a dark floor will magnify the effect even more. Consider painting one wall a contrasting color to create a stylish focal point.

Furnishing solutions for small spaces

  • Your furnishings should be small mobile and, when possible, stackable. That way, spaces can be quickly reorganized to suit different situations.
  • Furnishings that blend with the colors of your walls or floors (or are transparent) will make the space appear less cluttered. To add personality and warmth, accentuate with colorful throw pillows and rich fabrics.
  • If you keep most furnishings against the walls, traffic flow will be improved, and it will make rooms feel larger.
  • Furnishings that hang from the walls or have legs will also create the illusion of more space.
  • In many cases, bench seating is better than individual chairs, because benches can accommodate more people and can be used as side tables when no one is sitting on them.
  • Instead of a coffee table, consider small side tables. Instead of a full-size sofa, try a three-seat version, or even a love seat (just two cushions).
  • A large, wall-mounted mirror will make the space appear larger.
  • An open-sided bookshelf can do double-duty as an interesting room divider. Leaving it half empty will allow natural light to shine through.
  • A table on wheels is good for the kitchen. Use it as an island in the center of the kitchen or roll it to the side and use is as a side counter.
  • Consider using an under-counter refrigerator, together with an under-counter freezer, instead of one large, freestanding unit.
  • In small spaces, there is no room for furnishings you don’t love. If something isn’t getting used much, or if you don’t really care for it, get rid of it.

Organizing small spaces

  • The best furnishings are those that include storage space (a dining room table with drawers; an ottoman with a hollow interior; a bed that sits on a storage unit).
  • Bookshelves and other wall-storage systems should be thin and as tall as possible to maximize storage while minimizing the amount of floor space used.
  • Storage pieces with doors keep small rooms from looking cluttered and unkempt. Even glass doors can help achieve this effect.
  • Remove food goods from their air-filled boxes and bags and store them in space-saving, stackable containers.
  • Store larger things (like a vacuum cleaner, electronics, etc.) behind a free-standing decorative screen.
  • A professionally designed closet storage system can double, and even triple, the space for your clothes. Removing the door(s) to the closet will ease access.
  • Wall-mounted hooks are ideal for coats and much more. Pot racks are great for freeing up valuable cabinet storage space in the kitchen.

Many people think you need to sacrifice in order to live in a small space. But with these suggestions, you can simply adapt and enjoy your home to the fullest.

For more information on Windermere Evergreen please contact us here.


Posted on December 13, 2017 at 9:35 am
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , , ,

How the American Home has Evolved

Owning a home has been an American tradition from the start. But the home itself has changed dramatically over the years.

For example, you may be surprised to learn how much the size of the average American home has increased since the turn of the 20th century—especially when you compare it to the size of the average family during the same time period.

In the year 1900, the average American family was relatively large with 4.6 members, but the average home featured just 1,000 square feet of usable floor space. By 1979, family size had shrunk to 3.11 members, but the floor space they shared had expanded to 1,660 square feet. And by 2007, the average family size was even smaller still—just 2.6 members—while the average home size had increased by the largest amount yet—this time to 2,521 square feet.

To accommodate those larger homes, property lots have also had to expand in size. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Bungalow homeswere usually built on lots measuring 60 by 100 feet (for a total of 6,000 square feet). However, by 1976, the average size of a single-family property lot had expanded to more than 10,000 square feet. In 1990, it expanded again (to 14,680 square feet). Today, the average property lot in America is a staggering 17,590 square feet.

Exterior building materials

Until the 1960s, the building materials used on the exterior of most homes were limited to brick, wood, or wood shingles. However, by the early 1960s, many Americans chose to cover their homes with a more affordable material that was also maintenance-free: aluminum and vinyl siding. Today, many homeowners are using low-maintenance siding materials made of cement fiber.

Interior building materials

The primary building material for interior ceilings and walls for much of the 20th century was plaster applied over wood lathe. Modern day sheetrock didn’t become popular until the 1950s. In the 1960s, wood paneling and textured walls became prevalent, largely for their quick and easy application. In the 1970s and ‘80s, “popcorn ceilings” became a common way to hide imperfections in ceilings. Today’s style again favors smooth walls and ceilings, which can result in a lot of work removing paneling and textures in older homes.

Throughout the early 1900s, the floors throughout most homes were almost always bare wood. Linoleum tile became a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms in the 1940s. However, by the 1960s and 1970s, wall-to-wall carpeting was all the rage—even in bathrooms and some kitchens. Homes today feature a wide array of flooring materials, depending on both the region and the room’s function. For example, tiles are a more popular choice in warm regions than cold ones because they tend to stay cool; wall-to-wall carpeting is still popular in rooms like bedrooms and family rooms, where people like to feel most comfortable, while durable and easy-to-clean hardwoods, tiles and linoleum are more favorable in kitchens and high-traffic areas.

The Kitchen

At the turn of the 20th century, the kitchen was a place where the woman of the house did all the cooking. Kitchens were typically small, closed off from the rest of the house by solid walls, and far more functional than fashionable. Dining took place in the dining room.

Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, kitchens remained stark workplaces with very few appliances. Food was kept chilled with an icebox (a non-electric, insulated box about the same size as a modern refrigerator that used a block of ice to keep everything cold). However, by 1944, 85 percent of American households had switched from an icebox to a refrigerator.

In the mid 1950s, the kitchen changed dramatically. It not only became larger, it also transformed into the heart of the home, where the whole family gathered to help prepare and even eat meals.

The 1950s also brought a host of kitchen innovations, from the stainless steel sink to electric ovens and stovetops. But the most exciting of all was the dishwasher. The 1970s marked the introduction of the microwave.

Today, the kitchen is still a place where everyone gathers. So it’s not surprising that may people favor open-concept kitchens, with no walls separating them from the dining or family room.

Appliance and amenities

The 1940s census was the first to ask homeowners about some of the amenities in their homes. The results are startling (though perhaps less so when you consider that this was during the depression): Less than 50 percent of homes had hot water, an indoor toilet or a bath tub; about one in five didn’t have a home phone.

By the 1950s, however, things had changed dramatically for the better. That’s when many Americans got a refrigerator, an electric stove, a dishwasher, and, ah yes, air conditioning. Until then, most homes were cooled with nothing more than a ceiling fan at best.

Thanks to the larger, Ranch-style homes being constructing in the 1950s, walk-in closets also made their introduction. The fabulous ‘50s also ushered in the two-car attached garage.

And let’s not forget the television; it exploded onto the scene in the early 1950s and by 1955, half of all U.S. households had sets. Today, the average home has little less than three TVs.

What hasn’t changed

Despite all these changes, one thing has remained the same: The number one reason why Americans chose to buy a home. According to Dan McCue, research manager at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, “It’s always been seen as the best way to build net worth and equity.”


Posted on December 12, 2017 at 9:12 pm
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Selling your home: A step-by-step approach

Whether you’re starting a family, moving for your job, getting ready to retire or embarking on a new chapter in your life, when your home no longer suits your current situation, it’s time to think about selling it. Although this can be a bit complicated, with the help of your agent, you can minimize the hassles, get the best possible price, and shorten the distance between “For Sale” and “Sold”.

Price it right

If you want to get the best possible price for your home and minimize the time it stays on market, you need to price it correctly from the beginning. Your agent can give you a clear picture of your particular market and can provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA). A CMA contains detailed information on comparable homes in your area, including square footage, date built, number of bedrooms, lot size and more. It lists pending sales and houses sold in your area in the past six months, along with their actual sale prices.

By comparing your home to similar homes in your neighborhood and reviewing their list prices and actual selling prices, your agent can help you arrive at a fact-based assessment of your home’s market price.

Prepping your house for sale

You want to make a positive first impression when you list your home for sale. Here are some tips on how to enhance your home’s best features:

Work on your curb appeal

Get rid of moss on your roof. Power wash your front walk, porch, deck and patio. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, weed the flowerbeds and add spots of color with container plants. Clean all the windows inside and out and repair them if they don’t open and close easily.

Refresh, repair and repaint

This goes for interiors and exteriors. If you see peeling paint, add a fresh coat. If your living room is bright lime green, consider painting it a more neutral shade. Make necessary repairs. You don’t want to turn off a buyer with a dripping faucet, a broken doorbell, a clogged downspout or a cracked windowpane.

Deep-clean, from floor to ceiling

Clean rugs, drapes and blinds and steam-clean carpeting. Get rid of any stains or odors. Make sure kitchen appliances, cupboards and counters are spotless and that bathrooms shine.

Declutter and depersonalize

Clean, light-filled, expansive rooms sell houses. So be sure to downsize clutter everywhere in your home, including cupboards, closets and counters. You might also consider storing some furniture or personal items to make rooms look more spacious. Take advantage of views and natural light by keeping drapes and blinds open.

Make an impact on the market

If you want to sell your home, you need to go where the buyers are, and today they’re on the Internet. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, in 2012 90 percent of homebuyers used the Internet as an information source, and for 41 percent of homebuyers it was the first step in the home-buying process.

By working with your agent, you can list your home on Windermere.com and other relevant websites. He or she will put together a listing with attractive photos, an appealing description and all the information a potential buyer needs. Your agent will also market your house, which may include advertising, direct mail and open houses.

Show your house

After you’ve taken care of all the repairs and cleaning tasks outlined above, your home is ready for its close-up: an open house. It’s actually best for you and your family to leave when potential buyers are present so they can ask your agent questions. But before you go, you might want to:

·         Take your pets with you

·         Open the shades and turn on the lights

·         Light a fire in the gas fireplace

·         Bake cookies

·         Keep money, valuables and prescription drugs out of sight

Be flexible in negotiating

If you get offers below your asking price, there are a number of strategies you can try in your counteroffer. You could ask for full price and throw in major appliances that were not originally included in the asking price, offer to pay some of the buyer’s fees, or pay for the inspection. You could also counter with a lower price and not include the appliances. If you receive multiple offers, you can simply make a full-price counter.

Your agent can suggest other strategies as well and help you negotiate the final price.

If your house doesn’t sell or you’ve received only lowball offers, ask your agent to find out what these prospective buyers are saying about your house. It might reveal something you can consider changing to make your house more appealing in the future.

Breeze through your inspection

When a buyer makes an offer on your home, it’s usually contingent on a professional inspection. A standard inspection includes heating and cooling, interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; and the foundation, basement and visible structure. The inspector will be looking for cracks in cement walls, water stains and wood rot.

You can always opt for having an inspection done prior to putting your house on the market, so you can address any potential problems in advance. Your agent can give you several recommendations for qualified inspectors in your area.

Close with confidence

Whether this is your first time or your tenth, your agent can help guide you though the complex process of selling a home. Moreover, he or she can answer any questions you may have about legal documents, settlement costs and the status of your sale.

Your agent’s expertise, resources and extensive network also work for you when you’re buying your next house. Even if you’re moving out of the area, your agent can refer you to a professional agent in your new community.

If you have questions about the buying or selling process, or are looking for an agent in your area, we have professionals that can help you. Contact us here.

 


Posted on December 11, 2017 at 9:06 am
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Buying & Selling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Short Sale FAQs: Understanding the Short Sale Process

What Is A Short Sale?

A short sale is the sale of a property for less than what the owner still owes on the mortgage. A short sale is an alternative to foreclosure when a homeowner needs to sell and can no longer afford to make their mortgage payments. The lender agrees to accept less than the amount owed to pay off a loan now rather than taking the property back by foreclosure and trying to sell it later. Lenders agree to a short sale because they believe it will net them more money than going forward with a lengthy and costly foreclosure process.

Can Any Real Estate Agent Effectively Handle My Short Sale?

No. A short sale is a very complicated real estate transaction and one that has very important implications for you. More than any other type of residential real estate transaction, a short sale should be handled only by a real estate broker who has substantial experience with the short sale process , and a strong track-record of success in negotiating short sales for their clients. You wouldn’t have your family doctor perform heart surgery. And, you shouldn’t expect any real estate broker to be qualified to handle this highly complex real estate transaction for you.

Why Should I Choose A Short Sale Over Foreclosure?

Whether you should do a short sale or let your property go to foreclosure depends on several factors. In most instances, a short sale makes more sense than foreclosure. In general, when you want to obtain a loan to purchase a property in the future, more opportunities will be available to you if you do a short sale. And, contrary to popular belief, you can be current on your payments and still do a short sale. In fact, if you are current on your mortgage through a short sale, you can qualify for an FHA loan afterwards without any waiting periods. The same option will not be available following a foreclosure.

While doing a short sale will negatively affect your credit, there are many benefits to choosing a short sale over foreclosure. With a short sale, you are in control of the sale, not the bank. You may sleep better at night knowing who is buying your home, and you can spare yourself the social stigma of foreclosure.

Every homeowner’s situation is different, so we always recommend that you speak with a real estate attorney that can advise you on the legal and tax implications for your circumstances.

How Do I Know If I Qualify For A Short Sale?

If you owe more than your house is worth and can’t afford your mortgage payments, you may qualify for a short sale. Every situation is unique, but in general the basic criteria for qualifying for a short sale are:

  • You need to sell your home.
  • You owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth.
  • You have a personal financial hardship that will prevent you from making future payments. (Examples of hardship include loss of job, divorce, death of a spouse and medical emergency or illness.)

When calculating if your house is worth less than the amount owed on the loan, you should deduct out what you would pay in real estate commissions, closing costs, and state excise taxes to sell your home.

Will I Get Any Money From The Sale?

Unless specifically authorized through a federally-sanctioned program such as HAFA, when a lender approves a short sale, they typically require that the borrower (seller) not receive any money from the sale of the property since the lender is going to take a loss on the loan.

How Long Does A Short Sale Take?

The short sale process is complicated and time-consuming. It can take several weeks, or even months, to get a short sale approved. Many lenders have several layers of management, insurers, and investors that will have to be satisfied before a short sale is approved. As a homeowner, it is important to be patient during this long process. It is also critical that you work with a short sale negotiator who is familiar with the various requirements of individual lenders to ensure that the process moves as quickly as possible.

Is There Enough Time To Do A Short Sale Before A Foreclosure?

Maybe, maybe not. Just starting a short sale will not automatically stop a foreclosure. However, many times a lender can be convinced to postpone the foreclosure to let a short sale negotiation take place. So, while there are no guarantees, it does not hurt to try.

Does A Short Sale Always Work?

No, there is no guarantee that this will work. Once you fall behind on your loan, the lender can proceed to foreclosure if they choose to. But typically, lenders prefer not to foreclose and, if effectively presented with smart alternatives, they will often agree to a short sale rather than foreclose. If a short sale is attempted but doesn’t work, your house will likely go to foreclosure.

I Have More Than One Mortgage On My House. Can I Still Do A Short Sale?

Yes. Each mortgage can be negotiated individually. However, multiple mortgages make a short sale more complicated and time-consuming. Not only do you need the cooperation of the first lender, the second mortgage holder needs to agree to a short sale as well.

What Is A Release?

A lender may offer to “release” its security interest against the property in exchange for less than the total amount of the note. A release will allow the property to be sold without paying off the obligations of the note. However, the note is not satisfied. The advantage of a release is it allows the property to be sold and helps you avoid a foreclosure. The disadvantage is the remaining debt on the property (sometimes called a deficiency) still exists. You are still liable for the note. In other words, you still owe the money. In reality, it’s not likely that the lender will pursue the deficiency unless you have other significant assets. Furthermore, if you don’t attempt a short sale and the property goes to foreclosure, you can be liable for the full amount of remaining debt on any additional mortgages beyond your first mortgage.

What Is A Satisfaction?

A lender may agree to accept less than it is owed as complete and total satisfaction of the debt and release its lien against the property. Your note and obligation to the lender are satisfied for less than you owe. When the property is sold, the debt is paid off completely. Sometimes short sale negotiations are successful in obtaining complete satisfaction. Sometimes all that can be obtained is a release.

Are There Tax Consequences?

When a lender cancels, or forgives, your debt, the tax laws may consider the forgiven debt as taxable income. If a lender agrees to a satisfaction, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 provides that debt forgiveness of up to $2 million is not considered taxable income if:

  • The house has been used as your principal place of residence for at least two of the previous five years.
  • The debt has been used to buy, build, or make substantial improvements to the home.

Home equity loans where the money was not used to buy, build, or improve the home do not qualify for the exclusion. Neither do mortgages for second homes or rental properties. The law has been extended to include debt forgiven through 2013.

There are additional tax considerations to keep in mind. A debt cancellation will affect your property’s cost basis. Insolvency or bankruptcy may also alleviate some of the tax burdens of a debt cancellation resulting from a short sale. You should always confirm tax matters with your tax professional.

Can I Keep The House Through A Short Sale?

The purpose of a short sale is to get the property sold, so you do not keep the house. Just as in a normal sale, you will be moving, typically when the sale closes. Some sellers choose to move before the house closes. You will not be allowed to remain in the house. If your intention is to remain in your house, you should consider other options besides a short sale.


Posted on December 10, 2017 at 9:03 pm
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Buying & Selling | Tagged , , , , , , ,

In the market to buy a home? Make a list and check it twice.

Are you thinking of buying a home, and you aren’t sure exactly where to start? Here is a checklist to help you get ready to make your home dreams come true:

Decide where you want to live! Are you where you want to be? Generally, you will want to plan on staying in your home for at least 5-7 years in order for you investment to pay off, so it’s important to look at homes in an area that will meet your needs over the long term.

Explore the market. Once you know where you will be looking for homes, you can start to explore. Get to know the neighborhoods, the school districts, the local businesses, and community amenities.

Make a list of what you need and want. Create a list of the things in a home that are most important to you. Like the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, home features, commute times, etc. Then make a list of things that you would like to have, but aren’t as important, such as a fireplace, a large back yard, or a pool. It may help you to create a Pinterest board with your favorite home features that you can share with your agent when you’re ready to start looking.

Search for comparable houses in your market. Once you know where you’d like to buy and what type of house you’re looking for, you can start to realistically assess how much it will cost. Use an online search tool like windermere.com to see what’s for sale in your preferred neighborhood(s) and the value of the homes.

Take a good look at your finances. Once you have an idea of what homes cost, you can start figuring out how much money you need for a down payment, monthly mortgage payments, property taxes, etc. Make sure to check your credit score to ensure that everything is in order before applying for a home loan.

Develop your financial plan. Determine how much you need to save for your down payment and create a plan and timeline to achieve this goal. Outstanding debt can drag down your credit score, so make sure that paying down debt is a part of your plan.

Find a real estate agent! Once you’ve met your financial goals, it’s time to find a real estate agent. The best place to start is by asking friends and family for a referral. You can also search on real estate websites, like windermere.com, to find an agent that specializes in the area you are looking to live.

Get pre-approved for your home loan. Your agent should be able to refer you to a mortgage representative who can assist with the financing of your new home. The first step is to get pre-approved so that you know exactly how much home you can afford. Not only does this allow you to refine your home search, but it can also give you a competitive advantage when there are multiple buyers bidding on the same property.

Start shopping! This process involves everything from searching for homes online to visiting open houses on the weekends. But perhaps the most important part of this process is going on a good-old-fashioned home tour with your real estate agent. Looking for homes online lets you search more efficiently, but there’s nothing like seeing the home – and its surroundings – first hand.

The bidding process. The bidding process differs from region to region and season to season, but ultimately you should look to your agent to help you develop a plan based on your priorities and financial abilities. Depending on the market where you’re buying, there could be multiple buyers bidding for the same home, so it’s a good idea to have a well thought out strategy ahead of time.

Offer acceptance & earnest money. Once a seller accepts your offer you are required to put down an earnest money deposit to show that you are committed to purchasing the house. This money is held jointly by the seller and the buyer in a trust or escrow account. The earnest money goes towards your down payment and closing costs upon the closing of the home sale.

Home inspection. Most home sales are pending until a home inspection is completed. This is when a home inspector checks the condition of a home, such as the foundation, roof, windows, insulation, electrical, and heating components. If a home inspection turns up the need for repairs, it can end up being a tool for re-negotiations with the seller.

Home appraisal. This is an all-important step to getting the financing you need for your new home. An appraisal is performed to assess the true value of a home, which in turn, determines how much a lender is willing to give you to buy it. Appraisals protect banks from getting stuck with property that’s worth less than they’ve invested. And it protects you from paying too much for a house simply because it was love at first sight.

Purchase your home insurance. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.

Closing! The closing marks the final step of the home purchase process. This is when the deed to a property is legally transferred from the seller to the buyer who then takes possession of the home. In simple terms, this is when you get the keys to your new home and you can officially move in.

If you have any additional questions about the home buying process, contact a local real estate agent.


Posted on December 9, 2017 at 12:15 pm
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Buying & Selling | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Real Estate Appraisals 101

Appraised value vs. market value

Appraisals are designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions. They provide a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.

The appraised value of a property is what the bank thinks it’s worth, and that amount is determined by a professional, third-party appraiser. The appraiser’s valuation is based on a combination of comparative market sales and inspection of the property.

Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. A home’s appraised value and its market value are typically not the same. In fact, sometimes the appraised value is very different. An appraisal provides you with an invaluable reality check.

If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show him comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give him a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.

What information goes into an appraisal?

Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.

They also conduct an inspection. Typically an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:

  • The condition of the property and home, inside and out
  • The home’s layout and features
  • Home updates
  • Overall quality of construction
  • Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately)
  • Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools)

After considering all such information, the appraiser arrives at three different dollar amounts – one for the value of the land, one for the value of the structure, and one for their combined value. In many cases, the land will be worth more than the structure.

One thing to bear in mind is that an appraisal is not a substitute for a home inspection. An appraiser does a cursory assessment of a house and property. For a more detailed inspection, consult with a home inspector and/or a specialist in the area of concern.

Who pays and how long does it take?

The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.

An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for values of the houses around you. A full report comes to your loan officer, a real estate agent or lender within about a week.

If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal, but they must request it. Typically the requested appraisal is provided at closing.

What if the appraisal is too low?

If you appraisal comes in too low it can be a problem. Usually the seller’s and the buyer’s real estate agents respond by looking for recent and pending sales of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can renegotiate the contract or cancel it.

Where do you find a qualified appraiser?

Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons, and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website: https://www.asc.gov/National-Registry/NationalRegistry.aspx

Tips for hassle-free appraisals:

  • What can you do to make the appraisal process as smooth and efficient as possible? Make sure you provide your appraiser with the information he or she needs to get the job done. Get out your important documents and start checking off a list that includes the following:
  • A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
  • The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
  • A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
  • If you have a mortgage, your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have
  • A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
  • Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency
  • Any personal property that is included
  • If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases
  • A copy of the original house plans and specifications
  • A list of recent improvements and their costs
  • Any other information you feel may be relevant

By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary phone calls and delays.

For more information on Windermere Evergreen please contact us here.


Posted on December 8, 2017 at 9:56 pm
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Buying & Selling | Tagged , , , , , , ,

How the American Home has Evolved

Owning a home has been an American tradition from the start. But the home itself has changed dramatically over the years.

For example, you may be surprised to learn how much the size of the average American home has increased since the turn of the 20th century—especially when you compare it to the size of the average family during the same time period.

In the year 1900, the average American family was relatively large with 4.6 members, but the average home featured just 1,000 square feet of usable floor space. By 1979, family size had shrunk to 3.11 members, but the floor space they shared had expanded to 1,660 square feet. And by 2007, the average family size was even smaller still—just 2.6 members—while the average home size had increased by the largest amount yet—this time to 2,521 square feet.

To accommodate those larger homes, property lots have also had to expand in size. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Bungalow homeswere usually built on lots measuring 60 by 100 feet (for a total of 6,000 square feet). However, by 1976, the average size of a single-family property lot had expanded to more than 10,000 square feet. In 1990, it expanded again (to 14,680 square feet). Today, the average property lot in America is a staggering 17,590 square feet.

Exterior building materials

Until the 1960s, the building materials used on the exterior of most homes were limited to brick, wood, or wood shingles. However, by the early 1960s, many Americans chose to cover their homes with a more affordable material that was also maintenance-free: aluminum and vinyl siding. Today, many homeowners are using low-maintenance siding materials made of cement fiber.

Interior building materials

The primary building material for interior ceilings and walls for much of the 20th century was plaster applied over wood lathe. Modern day sheetrock didn’t become popular until the 1950s. In the 1960s, wood paneling and textured walls became prevalent, largely for their quick and easy application. In the 1970s and ‘80s, “popcorn ceilings” became a common way to hide imperfections in ceilings. Today’s style again favors smooth walls and ceilings, which can result in a lot of work removing paneling and textures in older homes.

Throughout the early 1900s, the floors throughout most homes were almost always bare wood. Linoleum tile became a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms in the 1940s. However, by the 1960s and 1970s, wall-to-wall carpeting was all the rage—even in bathrooms and some kitchens. Homes today feature a wide array of flooring materials, depending on both the region and the room’s function. For example, tiles are a more popular choice in warm regions than cold ones because they tend to stay cool; wall-to-wall carpeting is still popular in rooms like bedrooms and family rooms, where people like to feel most comfortable, while durable and easy-to-clean hardwoods, tiles and linoleum are more favorable in kitchens and high-traffic areas.

The Kitchen

At the turn of the 20th century, the kitchen was a place where the woman of the house did all the cooking. Kitchens were typically small, closed off from the rest of the house by solid walls, and far more functional than fashionable. Dining took place in the dining room.

Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, kitchens remained stark workplaces with very few appliances. Food was kept chilled with an icebox (a non-electric, insulated box about the same size as a modern refrigerator that used a block of ice to keep everything cold). However, by 1944, 85 percent of American households had switched from an icebox to a refrigerator.

In the mid 1950s, the kitchen changed dramatically. It not only became larger, it also transformed into the heart of the home, where the whole family gathered to help prepare and even eat meals.

The 1950s also brought a host of kitchen innovations, from the stainless steel sink to electric ovens and stovetops. But the most exciting of all was the dishwasher. The 1970s marked the introduction of the microwave.

Today, the kitchen is still a place where everyone gathers. So it’s not surprising that may people favor open-concept kitchens, with no walls separating them from the dining or family room.

Appliance and amenities

The 1940s census was the first to ask homeowners about some of the amenities in their homes. The results are startling (though perhaps less so when you consider that this was during the depression): Less than 50 percent of homes had hot water, an indoor toilet or a bath tub; about one in five didn’t have a home phone.

By the 1950s, however, things had changed dramatically for the better. That’s when many Americans got a refrigerator, an electric stove, a dishwasher, and, ah yes, air conditioning. Until then, most homes were cooled with nothing more than a ceiling fan at best.

Thanks to the larger, Ranch-style homes being constructing in the 1950s, walk-in closets also made their introduction. The fabulous ‘50s also ushered in the two-car attached garage.

And let’s not forget the television; it exploded onto the scene in the early 1950s and by 1955, half of all U.S. households had sets. Today, the average home has little less than three TVs.

What hasn’t changed

Despite all these changes, one thing has remained the same: The number one reason why Americans chose to buy a home. According to Dan McCue, research manager at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, “It’s always been seen as the best way to build net worth and equity.”


Posted on December 7, 2017 at 9:56 pm
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Buying & Selling | Tagged , , , , , ,

Six Key Factors That Affect the Sales Price of Your Home

Pricing a home for sale is not nearly as simple as most people think. You can’t base the price on what the house down the street sold for. You can’t depend on tax assessments. Even automatic valuation methods (AVMs), while useful for a rough estimate of value, are unreliable for purposes of pricing a home for sale.

AVMs, like those used by Zillow and Eppraisal, have been used for many years by banks for appraisal purposes. They are derived from algorithms based on past sales. But producers of AVMs agree that they are not accurate indicators of home value. For example, Zillow.com states, “Our data sources may be incomplete or incorrect; also, we have not physically inspected a specific home. Remember, the Zestimate is a starting point and does not consider all the market intricacies that can determine the actual price a house will sell for. It is not an appraisal.”

So what does Zillow recommend sellers do instead? The same thing the real estate industry has been advising for decades: Ask a real estate agent who knows your neighborhood to provide you with a comparative market analysis. To accomplish that, I typically consider the following factors—plus others, depending on the house:

Location

The location of your home will have the biggest impact on how much it can sell for. Identical homes located just blocks apart can fetch significantly different prices based on location-specific conditions unique to each, including: traffic, freeway-access, noise, crime, sun exposure, views, parking, neighboring homes, vacant lots, foreclosures, the number of surrounding rentals, access to quality schools, parks, shops, restaurants and more.

Recommendation: Be willing to price your house for less if it’s located in a less desirable area or near a neighborhood nuisance.

Market

Another major factor that also can’t be controlled is your local housing market (which could be quite different from the national, state or city housing markets). If there are few other homes on the market in your local area (a situation known as a “sellers market”), you may be able to set a higher price. However, if there’s a surplus of homes like yours for sale (a “buyer’s market”), your pricing will also reflect that.

Recommendation: If it’s a buyer’s market and you can delay selling your home until things change, you should consider doing so. If you can’t wait, be willing to price your home extremely competitively, especially if you are in a hurry to sell.

Condition

The majority of buyers are not looking to purchase fixer-uppers, which is why any deferred maintenance and repair issues can also significantly impact the selling price of your home. When your home’s condition is different than the average condition of homes in your location, AVMs tend to produce the widest range of error.

Recommendation:  Hire a professional home inspector to provide you with a full, written report of everything that needs upgrading, maintenance or repair, then work with your real estate agent to prioritize the list and decide what items are worth completing before the property is listed for sale, and what should be addressed through a lower list price. Also, some defects are best addressed during negotiations with buyers.

Widespread appeal

If you want to sell your home quickly and for the most money, you have to make it as appealing as possible to the largest pool of prospective buyers. The more universally attractive it is, the greater the interest and the faster competing offers will come.

Recommendation:

Hire a professional home stager (not a decorator) to temporarily stage the interior of your home. Also spend time making the exterior look its best: address any peeling paint, make sure the front door/ door hardware is attractive, prune bushes and trees, remove old play equipment and outdoor structures, etc.

Compare homes

The only neighboring homes that should be used to estimate the value of your home are those that have been carefully selected by a real estate professional with special training, access to all sales records, and in-depth knowledge of the neighborhood.

Recommendation: If you’re considering selling your home, ask your real estate agent to recommend a professional appraiser.

Searchability

When working with a prospective buyer, most real estate agents will search the available inventory only for the homes priced at (or less than) their client’s maximum, which is typically a round number. If you home is priced slightly above or below that amount (e.g., $510,000 or $495,000), it will appear in fewer buyer searches.

Recommendation: Be willing to adjust your selling price to maximize visibility.

Periodic price adjustments

Pricing a home isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposal. As with any strategy, you need to be prepared to adapt to fast-changing market conditions, new competition, a lack of offers and other outside factors.

Recommendation: After listing your house, be ready to adjust your asking price, if necessary. If you are looking for a qualified Real Estate Agent please contact us here.


Posted on December 6, 2017 at 9:00 pm
Windermere Evergreen | Posted in Buying & Selling | Tagged , , , , , , , ,