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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But the personal exemptions for taxpayer(s) and dependents is repealed.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. 

Homeowners Insurance: Things to Consider

by Bill Nelson - Broker

Anyone who owns a home knows that homeowners insurance is essential. It’s coverage you need to have in the event your home suffers significant damage. But understanding just what your insurance covers is not as simple as it sounds, and reviewing your coverage regularly is a prudent idea.

Are you covered for floods? Fires? Earthquakes? All three? Does your policy provide guaranteed replacement cost—which, for obvious reasons, since houses appreciate in value, may be almost prohibitively expensive? And what about exclusions? Many homeowners aren’t sure exactly what their coverage will pay for.

Financial advisors at consumer resource The Motley Fool suggest asking yourself three pointed questions when purchasing or renewing homeowners insurance:

  1. What does it cost to build in your area? There’s no way to price disaster insurance effectively without knowing what it would cost to rebuild your home. You need to know the per-square-foot average construction cost for your zip code—a number you should be able to get from a reputable insurance agent—then multiply that by the total area of your home to get the replacement cost. Insure for that amount, and then recheck the pricing regularly.
  2. What risks does your home face? Exclusions and riders are common for homeowners insurance. In Colorado, for example, policies frequently exclude damage from mold, since mold doesn’t thrive in the state’s dry climate. Other common exclusions apply to older homes, where outdated plumbing or fixtures may lead to greater risks. Be sure you understand exactly what risks your insurer will be covering.
  3. What’s my back-up fund like? The best way to save money on a homeowners policy is by taking on a higher deductible. But the higher your deductible, the less likely you will be to put in a claim for any lesser damages that may occur. You will need to have an emergency fund large enough to cover the gap in the event you ever need to.

Interested in housing and real estate tips? Feel free to contact me directly.

How FICO 9 May Increase Credit Scores

by Bill Nelson - Broker

How medical debt and other collection items are tallied in a credit score is changing, potentially increasing the credit scores of millions of people.

Called the FICO 9, the new credit score changes how medical collections are treated from non-medical changes, such as credit cards. A medical debt will now damage a credit score less than paying a credit card bill on time, for example.

FICO 9 came out in 2014, but the improved credit scores could just now be coming to fruition for many consumers because it can take a few years for banks and other lenders to implement the new system.

The new FICO 9 score should give responsible borrowers better access to credit and lower rates on existing credit once the changes are accepted by the industry.

Part of the thinking behind the changes is that for many people facing medical debt collections, it isn’t something they have a lot of control over. People get sick or are in an accident and can’t control how high their medical bills are, and may not even know that their medical debt is in collections.

More than 64 million Americans have some kind of medical collection record on their credit reports, according to Experian, a credit bureau. Almost all medical debts are reported to credit bureaus by collection agencies.

The FICO score is the most widely used credit score in the country, and is used by companies selling mortgages, credit cards, personal loans and more.

Another change with FICO 9 is that older collection items will have less impact on a credit score. Other types of debt that are sold to a collection agency—such as an unpaid utility bill or phone bill, school loan or rent—can still be reported to a credit bureau, but older collections will have less impact on a credit score. If the collection item is paid back, the score will improve.

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

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?

Expert Insights: How Do You Clear up Bad Credit?

by Bill Nelson - Broker

It is not easy but certainly doable with both commitment and time.

By law, any unfavorable information in your credit file can stay there from 7 to 10 years. Today, however, a creditor must remove credit blemishes in a timely fashion if you challenge them and they turn out to be false.

The first step in any recovery plan is to get copies of your credit records. You are entitled to free copies if you have recently been turned down for credit. Otherwise, request copies for a fee from the three major credit-reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union.

If you see any incorrect information, let the credit reporting agencies know. Also contact the companies that reported the negative claims against you.

If the credit report is correct, move immediately to take care of any outstanding delinquencies, tackling a little at a time until you get back on the right track. In fact, make an effort, if at all possible, to repay your debt in full and on time for six months to a year to prove you are working hard to repair any damage.

 

Give me a call if you would like to be connected with a local SLO County Lender who helps facilitate credit repair.

Understanding Private Mortgage Insurance

by Bill Nelson - Broker

Hopeful Central Coast Buyers applying for a home loan; who aren’t able to put 20 percent down upfront may be hearing their lender talk about Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI. A PMI comes into play when a buyer, unable to come up with a 20 percent down payment, is seen as a risky investment. Instead of simply blocking the borrower from taking out a loan, the lender will require Private Mortgage Insurance to protect the investors.

Typically, the PMI payment is paid monthly along with the overall mortgage payment. While this may seem bleak, for some it is the only way to secure a loan without that pesky 20 percent down payment.

However, just because you have a PMI doesn’t mean you will need to carry it the length of your loan. To get rid of the PMI on the loan, the borrower can contact their lender and ask that it be removed after they pay down enough of principal to cover the 20 percent.

Really trying to avoid that PMI? You could also take out a smaller loan to cover the amount of the 20 percent down, although this usually comes at a higher interest rate.

Understanding the Debt-to-Income Ratio

When applying for a mortgage, your lender will be looking closely at your debt-to-income ratio, also known as a DTI. But what is your DTI? It’s a calculation, and to get it, your lender will be dividing your monthly debt by your monthly income. Let’s look closer.

To start, first add up what you spend each month on the following: mortgage or rent, minimum credit card payments, car loan, student loans, alimony/child support payments, and other loans you may owe. The total amount is what you spend each month on debt.

Next, calculate your monthly income by adding up your yearly: gross income, bonus or overtime, alimony/child support, and any other income. Once you have this amount then divide your yearly income by 12 to determine your monthly income. Now all that’s left is to divide your monthly debt by your monthly income. While the base line changes, the typical ratio of what’s considered to be the healthiest debt load for the majority of people is 43 percent or less.

It’s also important to note that there are two types of DTI ratios: front end and back end. The front end DTI includes your housing-related debts. The back end DTI includes housing-related debts as well as other recurring debt payments (things like student loans, credit cards, child support, etc.).

 

If you would like to be connected to one of our team of lenders simply call us at (805) 462-3700.

Buying a Home When Your Spouse Has Poor Credit

by Bill Nelson

Buying a Central Coast home on two incomes can be difficult enough, and it can be even more demanding if one spouse has poor credit.

A poor credit score can make it difficult to qualify for a mortgage and can lead to a higher interest rate on a home loan. A spouse with poor credit could be left off the loan application entirely, requiring the other person to have a high credit score and a high enough income to afford the loan on their own.

If a spouse with poor credit does qualify for a loan, the lender could require a bigger down payment on the house.

FHA loans, for example, which are backed by the federal government, require a 10 percent down payment with a FICO credit score lower than 580, while a credit score above 580 only requires a 3.5 percent down payment.

A credit score is just part of the financial background a lender looks into. Income and a debt-to-income ratio are also considered, though a high income by itself won’t overcome a poor credit score.

Credit scores range from 500 to 850. A low score of 650 can be a predictor of making late loan payments, while a 550 score means you’re not likely to pay at all.

A couple’s credit scores aren’t averaged together in a home loan application. Lenders will use the lower of the two credit scores. If a husband has a 620 score and the wife has 700, then the lower score will be used in the mortgage application and an interest rate of three-eighths to half a point higher will be charged.

Options for those with poor credit

There are ways to get around one spouse having a low credit score. In the above example, the wife with the 700 credit score can get a home loan if she qualifies on her own.

Both spouses should be listed on the home’s title or deed, but only she would be listed as the borrower. The husband’s name could be added to the deed later when his credit score improves.

Buying a home on one income, however, can be difficult. The best solution is to improve the lower credit score, something that should be done months before applying for a loan.

Just a 10-point credit score improvement by paying down credit cards could be enough to get a better interest rate and can be done quickly.

Even minor credit improvements can take 30 days or more to fix, such as closing all but one credit card. Most fixes can take three to four months to show up on a credit report, so repairs should be made before applying for a loan.

For more information and connection with a Central Coast Lender Call Bill Nelson at (805) 610-8552.

Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7