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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in a Nutshell

by Bill Nelson - Broker

On December 22, 2017, the tax bill known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law by the President. The following is a brief summary of the general issues relating to real estate in California and is not specific tax advice.  Specific questions about any individual tax situation should be directed to a tax professional.

SALT and Mortgage Interest Deductions

Two of the most discussed provisions in the TCJA affecting California are the state and local tax (SALT) deductions and the mortgage interest deduction.  The TCJA imposes a $10,000 combined cap on all SALT deductions whether they are for real property taxes, or state or local income taxes, or sales taxes.  This will primarily affect high-tax states such as California. The $10,000 limit applies to both single and married filers and is not indexed for inflation.

The mortgage interest deduction for existing mortgages of up to $1 million taken out before December 15, 2017, will not be affected. Homeowners may also refinance mortgage debts existing on December 14, 2017, up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, so long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced.

For any new loans, however, the cap for deduction will be $750,000.  Deduction of interest on loans secured by a second house will still be allowed subject to the $1 million and $750,000 caps. 

The interest on home equity loans will only be deductible if the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.

Tax Rates, the Standard Deduction, and the personal and dependency exemptions

There will continue to be seven tax brackets, but the marginal tax rates in each bracket will be slightly lower. The standard deduction will be nearly doubled to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for joint filers.

But the personal exemptions for taxpayer(s) and dependents is repealed. Under prior law, tax filers could deduct $4,150 for the filer and his or her spouse, if any, and for each dependent, but they will no longer be able do so under TCJA.

Qualified Business Deductions

A provision that may be helpful to real estate licensees is the deduction for qualified business income. It will allow an off the top (above the line) deduction of 20% of business income, subject to certain provisions.  It will be available not only to certain pass-through entities, S corporations and Limited Liability Companies, but also for certain sole proprietors, such as independent contractors.

While personal service businesses, (which likely include real estate agents and brokers) were initially ineligible for the 20% deduction, the final bill has a personal service exemption.  In other words, many real estate professionals will be able to take advantage of this deduction. There are income limitations of $157,500 for single taxpayers and $315,000 for joint filers.  Above these income levels, phase out provisions apply.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has prepared a summary of the TCJA with some examples of how REALTORS® might be able to take advantage of this provision.  Click here to access NAR’s summary.

Sale of Principal Residence – Exclusion of Gain

TCJA does not change the $250,000 for single filers and $500,000 for joint returns exclusions from capital gains tax for the sale of a principal residence when the homeowner has owned and lived in the home for two of the last five years. 

Capital Gains

TCJA retains the current long-term capital gains rate of 15% generally but 20% on those in the highest tax bracket. Depreciation recapture for real property remains at 25%.

Like Kind Exchanges

Tax deferred IRC section 1031 like kind exchanges for real property will be retained in the TCJA. Personal property 1031 exchanges are no longer allowed.

Other Provisions

Moving expenses will no longer be deductible except for those in the military. Certain certified historic structures will still receive a tax credit. The child tax credit will be increased from $1,000 to $2,000. Casualty loses will be deductible only in a presidentially-declared disaster.  

Disclaimer

As with any tax law, the specifics of the taxpayer’s situation make a great deal of difference in the outcome.  This summary is general in nature and you are advised to speak to your own tax advisor. 

The Homebuyer's Mortgage Dictionary

by Bill Nelson - Broker

Knowing that you are ready to buy a home can be an exhilarating feeling, except it is often followed by panic. While experience is the best teacher, there are some things you can do to regain control of the home buying experience. One of them is getting accustomed to the terminology, especially when it comes to the various types of available mortgages.

LearnVest offers a list of mortgage terms any first-time homebuyer should add to their dictionary:

  1. ARM: This acronym stands for adjustable rate mortgage, which in vernacular means a home loan with fluctuation interest rates. ARMs are very much a game of chance, starting off with a period of 3 – 10 years of low fixed rates, followed by an adjustable roller coaster-rate period. In short, your interest rate will reflect whatever’s happening in the market. This might be highly anxiety-inducing if you are not planning to sell by the time the rates adjust higher, but there is a chance that you will end up paying less if market trends are in your favor.
  2. Fixed-Rate Mortgage: This is the total opposite of the ARM. Instead of offering a fluctuating rate, you sign on for the same rate throughout the course of your mortgage loan. There are no surprises here, but the downside is that you must pay the same fee even if the market rates drop. There is some wiggle room thanks to refinancing, but fees and potential hassles come with it.
  3. Assumable Mortgage: This is a wild card that only becomes possible once in a blue moon. For this kind of mortgage, you take on the seller’s mortgage loan instead of taking out a new one for yourself. This helps when the market rate is higher than what the seller had it fixed at, plus it cuts some fees in the process. Yet, be aware that the seller’s lender must give you the green light as well. The other curve ball is that the home-selling price might surpass that of the mortgage balance.
  4. Balloon-Payment Mortgage: This mortgage option is like playing a game of Super Smash Brothers in which you are given 5 – 7 years of low monthly payments followed by a sudden death knockout match where you must make a giant final payment. Homebuyers tend to pick this type of loan because they expect to sell their home before the final payment while enjoying low interest rates during their ownership years. Another solution is applying for a new loan, but of course, who’s to say you’ll get it? And that’s where the sudden death part comes in: the balloon may just explode.

With this knowledge, you can now start planning your next move. What type of mortgage loan better suits your situation?

First American’s proprietary Real House Price Index (RHPI) looks at January 2017 data and includes analysis from First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming on the decline in affordability as consumer house-buying power dipped due to rising rates.


“While affordability is lower compared to a year ago, the level of affordability in most markets is still high by historical standards, which is why demand is expected to remain strong this spring.”


“Real purchasing-power adjusted house prices declined 0.1 percent in January, as mortgage rates did not meaningfully change and income growth continued. Despite the monthly increase in affordability and continued strong wage growth, homes are less affordable across the country compared to a year ago,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American.

 

For Mark’s full analysis on affordability, the top five states and markets with the greatest increases and decreases in real house prices, and more, please visit the Real House Price Index.

 

The RHPI offers an alternative view of the change over time of house prices at the national, state and metropolitan area level. The traditional perspective on house prices is fixated on the actual prices and the changes in those prices, which overlooks what really matters to potential buyers - their purchasing power, or how much they can afford to buy. The RHPI adjusts prices for purchasing power by considering how income levels and interest rates influence the amount one can borrow.

 

The RHPI is updated monthly with new data. Look for the next edition of the RHPI the week of April 24, 2017.

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What Agents Must Share from Real Estate Disclosures

by Bill Nelson- Past President NCAOR®

There’s a memorable phrase in the real estate profession of “Disclose, disclose, disclose. Those who don’t, don’t close, don’t close, don’t close.”

It’s a smart rule to follow, and not just to make a sale. The National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics goes into some detail about what agents should disclose to clients, though there isn’t much about rules for real estate disclosures about a property’s condition.

An agent’s role in conveying the seller’s disclosure is pretty straightforward: Tell everything required by law, which vary by state and can go down to the city and county level.

The one area that federal law requires disclosure of is lead paint. If a home was built before 1978, it may contain lead paint and must be checked for it, and a disclosure form must be completed.

The state and federal regulations are meant to disclose known facts about a property’s condition, including problems that could discourage potential buyers. These include leaking windows, being in a flood zone and if a murder happened on the site.

While a home inspection should turn up most issues and could turn up new issues that no one knew about, it’s legally up to the seller to tell buyers about problems they already know about a home.

Most states require real estate agents and brokers to sign a disclosure form listing everything material about the deal, under penalty of perjury.

A real estate agent representing the buyer has a duty to disclose information that would allow the buyer to complete the sale at the lowest price and at the most favorable terms for the buyer, and these can include home defects that need to be fixed.

 Some issues may not meet current building codes but are working fine for the current owner, who isn’t obligated to disclose them, Wolfs says. These can include older windows, railings that are low, a driveway needing repair and improper grading.

Sellers and their agents may not have to disclose such issues, but revealing as much as they can in a disclosure statement is only in their best interest in the long run if they don’t want to be sued afterward for not alerting a buyer to something they knew about.

“Disclose, disclose, disclose.” Follow that mantra and you should be safe.

I hope you found this real estate information helpful. Please contact me for all your real estate needs today!

Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4