Property Tax Deductions
Is it ever too early to start thinking about your taxes? We don’t think so, particularly when it comes to tax deductions. Homeowners and landlords can benefit from a number of property tax deductions every year. Read on for a brief overview of these potential deductions for the upcoming tax season.
For the 2019 tax season, there’s a new limit: You may deduct up to $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately) for a combination of property taxes and either state and local income taxes or sales taxes.
You might be able to deduct property and real estate taxes you pay on your:
What’s not deductible
The IRS doesn’t allow property tax deductions for:
How to get a bigger property tax deduction
Tax Deduction for Landlords
Interest is often a landlord’s single biggest deductible expense. Common examples of interest that landlords can deduct include mortgage interest payments on loans used to acquire or improve rental property and interest on credit cards for goods or services used in a rental activity. Starting in 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limited the interest deduction for landlords who earn more than $25 million from their rentals. However, such landlords can avoid this limit by agreeing to depreciate their rental property over 30 years instead of 27.5 years.
Click the link to find more detailed information about deducting interests on rental property.
2. Depreciation for Rental Real Property
The actual cost of a house, apartment building, or other rental property is not fully deductible in the year in which you pay for it. Instead, landlords get back the cost of real estate through depreciation. This involves deducting a portion of the cost of the property over several years.
The cost of repairs to rental property (provided the repairs are ordinary, necessary, and reasonable in amount) are fully deductible in the year in which they are incurred. Good examples of deductible repairs include repainting, fixing gutters or floors, fixing leaks, plastering, and replacing broken windows.
Read Tips for Maximizing Repair Deductions to ensure your expense will constitute a repair, not an improvement.
4. Personal Property
The cost of personal property used in a rental activity can usually be deducted in one year using the de minimis safe harbor deduction (for property costing up to $2,000) or 100% bonus depreciation which will remain in effect for 2018 through 2022. Such personal property includes appliances or furniture in rental units and gardening equipment. For details, see Every Landlord’s Tax Deduction Guide, by Stephen Fishman (Nolo).
5. Pass-Through Tax Deduction Starting in 2018, most landlords will qualify for a new pass-through tax deduction established by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This deduction is a special income tax deduction, not a rental deduction. Depending on their income, landlords may be able to deduct (1) up to 20% of their net rental income, or (2) 2.5% of the initial cost of their rental property plus 25% of the amount they pay their employees. This deduction is scheduled to expire after 2025. For details, see Every Landlord’s Tax Deduction Guide, by Stephen Fishman (Nolo).
Landlords are entitled to a tax deduction for most of the driving they do for their rental activity. For example, when you drive to your rental building to deal with a tenant complaint or go to the hardware store to purchase a part for a repair, you can deduct your travel expenses. However, you can’t deduct the cost of travel you do to improve your rental property–these expenses must be added to the property’s tax basis and depreciated over many years.
If you drive a car, an SUV, a van, a pickup, or a panel truck for your rental activity (as most landlords do), you have two options for deducting your vehicle expenses. You can:
To qualify for the standard mileage rate, you must use it in the first year you use a car for your rental activity.
Learn more about deducting landlord car expenses.
If you travel overnight for your rental activity, you can deduct your airfare, hotel bills, meals, and other expenses. If you plan your trip carefully, you can even mix landlord business with pleasure and still take a deduction.
However, IRS auditors closely scrutinize deductions for overnight travel — and many taxpayers get caught claiming these deductions without proper records to back them up. To stay within the law (and avoid unwanted attention from the IRS), you need to properly document your long distance travel expenses.
7. Home Office
Provided they meet certain minimal requirements, landlords may deduct their home office expenses from their taxable income. This deduction applies not only to space devoted to office work, but also to a workshop or any other home workspace you use for your rental business. This is true whether you own your home or apartment or are a renter. For the ins and outs on taking the home office deduction, see Home Business Tax Deductions or Every Landlord’s Tax Deduction Guide, both by Stephen Fishman (Nolo).
8. Employees and Independent Contractors
Whenever you hire anyone to perform services for your rental activity, you can deduct their wages as a rental business expense. This is so whether the worker is an employee (for example, a resident manager) or an independent contractor (for example, a repair person). Find out tax rules that apply to landlords who hire independent contractors to help them with their rental business, see Hiring Independent Contractors for Your Rental Activity.
You can deduct the premiums you pay for almost any insurance for your rental activity. This includes fire, theft, and flood insurance for rental property, as well as landlord liability insurance. And if you have employees, you can deduct the cost of their health and workers’ compensation insurance.
10. Legal and Professional Services
Finally, you can deduct fees that you pay to attorneys, accountants, property management companies, real estate investment advisors, and other professionals. You can deduct these fees as operating expenses as long as the fees are paid for work related to your rental activity.
Sources: NerdWallet and Nolo
All Cash-Out Refinance
Summary of VA Change
will no longer guaranty cash-out refinancing loans when the LTV exceeds 100
Test and Disclosure
of construction loans (construction-to-permanent) are considered Cash-Out
Refinance transactions, irrespective of whether there is any change to the
principal loan amount.
Type I Cash-Out Refinance
Transactions – Additional Requirements
amount (including VAFF) does not exceed the payoff amount of the loan being
Recoupment (Refinance of an Existing VA-Guaranteed Loan)
Rate Basis Requirements
(Refinance of a Fixed-Rate, VA-Guaranteed Loan)
Type II Cash-Out Refinance
amount (including VAFF) exceeds the payoff amount of the loan being
and definition are unchanged: A refinancing loan made to refinance an
existing VA-guaranteed home loan at a lower interest rate. See Circular
other refinancing, and all construction-to-permanent refinancing, fall into
the category of Type I or Type II Cash-Out Refinance.
A knowledgeable real estate agent and a thorough home inspection can protect buyers from purchasing a home with major defects. It still helps, though, to know what to look for when it comes to the less obvious telltale signs of a problem. Here are four red flags buyers might not know about homes but should:
It's easy to see cracks in a foundation or evidence of moisture in a basement or crawl space, but doors that don't close properly can be an indicator of less obvious problems with a foundation. A shifting house or excessive moisture can cause doors to function improperly. One door that doesn't close all the way could just be off—maybe not properly installed—but multiple doors with closing or even opening problems could be a sign of something more insidious.
Poor Water Pressure
When touring a house for sale, home buyers may want to open up some faucets. A cheap showerhead can lead to a shower that trickles rather than showers, but if multiple faucets seem to have poor water pressure, it could mean a plumbing problem exists. A home inspection can uncover this too, but it's an easy check for home buyers to do themselves when walking through a home that's for sale.
If there are water stains on a ceiling, it means there is or has been a leak. It would be rare, however, for a home to be put on the market without the seller having been advised to fix the water stains. That means buyers should also be on the lookout for other irregularities on ceilings. Are they painted in some rooms but not others? Are there parts of the ceiling that don't quite match the rest? If it appears as though there's been work done to a ceiling, a home buyer should ask about leaks.
Overworked Sump Pump
Sump pumps are put in homes to move water from the foundation. A sump pump that runs when it's wet is doing its job, but one that runs frequently could mean the foundation is vulnerable to more water than it should be. Buyers should check the exterior of the home for proper grading; for example, does the ground slope away from the home or toward it? Water and foundations don't mix, and you want to ensure you don't have expensive problems later.
Aly J. Yale, Contributor
There’s no doubt about it: the 2018 housing market has seen its ups and downs.
The year started with sky-high home prices, historically low mortgage rates and a definitive upper hand for sellers. In recent months though, home price growth has faltered, rates have risen to their highest point in nearly eight years, and favor has started to shift from seller to buyer.
Will these trends continue? Will housing experience the same wild ride in the new year? Here’s what experts predict will happen in 2019 real estate market:
Mortgage rates will continue rising.
“Despite steady climbing for the past two years, mortgage rates remain lower than they were during most of the recession and below average for the type of strong economic growth we’ve been experiencing. That will change in 2019, as the 30-year, fixed rate mortgage reaches 5.8% — territory not seen since the dark days of 2008 when rates were racing downward in response to the housing crisis.” — Aaron Terrazas, director of economic research for Zillow
Millennials will keep buying homes — despite those rising rates.
"The housing market in 2019 will be characterized by continued rising mortgage rates and surging millennial demand. Rising rates, by making housing less affordable, will likely deter certain potential homebuyers from the market. On the other hand, the largest cohort of millennials will be turning 29 next year, entering peak household formation and home-buying age, and contributing to the increase in first-time buyer demand.” — Odeta Kushi, senior economist for First American
“Millennials will continue to make up the largest segment of buyers next year, accounting for 45% of mortgages, compared to 17% of Boomers, and 37% of Gen Xers. While first-time buyers will struggle next year, older Millennial move-up buyers will have more options in the mid-to upper-tier price point and will make up the majority of Millennials who close in 2019. Looking forward, 2020 is expected to be the peak Millennial home buying year with the largest cohort of millennials turning 30 years old. Millennials are also likely to make up the largest share of home buyers for the next decade as their housing needs adjust over time.” — Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com
As a buyer, the appraisal is essential to whether you will be approved for the mortgage amount that you've requested. The house that you purchase provides the collateral you need to borrow the money. If the home isn't valued at the same amount or higher than what you intend to borrow, you could run into problems receiving approval.
Is It Possible to Undo a Bad Home Appraisal?
What can you do if you believe the home appraisal is inaccurate? The first thing you should do is speak to your real estate agent about your concerns. The agent will evaluate the appraisal and look into recent sales of similar homes. If the agent believes that your apprehensiveness is valid, he or she can speak to the lender about filing a dispute with the appraisal office.
What Other Options Exist?
If you are having difficulty getting a mortgage for the amount that you want due to a low appraisal number, you can make a larger down payment to reduce the overall loan value. Alternatively, you can take out private mortgage insurance (PMI) on the behalf of the lender. PMI is designed to protect the bank or creditor loaning you the money in the event that you default on the mortgage.
Before your application for a mortgage is fully approved, an appraisal of the home must take place. This process determines the estimated value of the house that you either intend to purchase or to sell. If the valuation falls below the asking price, it could pose difficulties for the seller or for the prospective buyer. If you believe that an error has been made during the appraisal process, you should speak to your real estate agent about your options for dealing with it.
After listing your house for sale, one or more potential buyers might make a purchase offer soon. Since most people already own a home, you are likely to receive offers that are contingent upon the buyer selling his or her house first. Should you accept a contingency offer, wait for a better deal, or make a counteroffer? The following is important information on contingencies to help you make the best decision.
What Are Sale Contingencies?
A contingency offer means the buyers need to sell their property before they can close on yours. In some cases, the property may already be sold but they have not closed on the sale yet. This is the safest contingency offer for the seller. But what if the house has not sold yet?
If the house has not sold, check to see if it is on the market. It isn't advisable to accept an offer if the property hasn't been listed yet because the seller is taking all the risks. Before agreeing to anything, you (as the seller) can put conditions in your acceptance offer to protect yourself. For example:
Kick Out Clause - gives the seller the most protection and lowers the risk of losing out on a potential sale. If you get a better offer, you can give the buyer a set amount of time (e.g., 72 hours) to remove the sale contingency, or the deal is off. The current offer is "kicked out" and no longer valid after the specified time period.
Backups - with this agreement, the seller is free to accept offers on a backup basis. Potential buyers can check out your home and make an offer on the property even though you accepted a contingency offer. Backup offers are contingent upon the original buyers not meeting their purchase agreement obligations.
Less Time - if you feel the buyer has asked for too much time (e.g., 90 days) you may demand a 60- or 30-day contingency period.
In Escrow - the buyers' home must be already sold (and in escrow) before you will accept the offer.
Deposit Forfeiture - potential buyers forfeit their deposit money if they cannot close on the house by the specified date. Although many buyers may not accept these terms, the seller has the right to include them. This removes some of the risks from the seller and places them on the buyer.
Refusal - you have the right to refuse contingency offers, but by doing so you might limit the amount of purchase offers you receive, and it could be harder to sell your home.
What's the Best Thing to Do?
With so many choices and possibilities, it can be hard to make the right decision. That's why it is important to have a real estate agent with experience in these matters on your side. An active agent writes up contracts frequently and understands all the available options. They help you choose what is in your best interest.
Points to Ponder
If you are selling your house and receive a purchase offer with a sale contingency, the buyers have to sell their property before they can buy yours. Whether you accept sale contingency offers is up to you. If you wish to consider these offers, your acceptance can include demands that lower your risk factors. For example, you may add a kick out clause that lets you nullify the current offer if you get a better one.
You can set the time frame for contingencies and demand that the potential buyer forfeit his or her deposit money in case of a default. Because you have so many options, it is a good idea to have a qualified real estate professional on your side. A trusted agent has experience with negotiations, and you can trust this person to give you the right advice.
If you are looking to buy a new home and sell your current home, contact me today. I can help you with paperwork and many other issues concerning the sale of your home. I can also show you all the available properties and guide you through the entire process of relocation.
Many US taxpayers are preparing to receive large refund checks. In fact, the average refund amount for this year is expected to be $2,895.
If you have filed your tax forms with the IRS, you may be wondering about the best ways to maximize your tax refund. Here are some smart ways to use your 2018 tax refund:
Save Your Money
According to a recent report by CNBC, only 43 percent of American families have at least $1,000 set aside for emergency expenses. If you find it difficult to save for a rainy day, your tax refund can make starting a savings account easier.
Get Rid of Debt
Whether you owe money to credit cards or student loans, debt can make your life miserable. This is especially true if your debt load has gotten out of control. By using your tax refund to get rid of burdensome debt, you can eliminate financial stress and anxiety.
Fund Home Improvements
You can use your tax money to paint your home, landscape the yard, or update outdated appliances. These small improvements will enhance your home and pay you back through home equity.
Put Money in a Retirement Account
The best time to start a retirement account is now. Even if you are young, you should make decisions today that will benefit your future. Funding a retirement account takes discipline and consistency. However, you will be glad that you made the effort when it's time for you to retire.
Start a Small Business
Investing in your business start-up is a smart way to use your money. Not only can you make your dreams a reality you can also create an additional stream of income for your family.
Your tax refund can change your financial picture. It is important for you to make a plan to spend it wisely.
When it comes to selling your home, it's important to consider things from the buyer's perspective. Your home may feel cozy and perfect to you, but to someone else, it may look cluttered and outdated. Before allowing anyone into your home for an open house, consider working with a real estate agent to stage it appropriately. Staging is the process of highlighting the best things about your home while minimizing its less-than-positive aspects.
The goal of home staging is to allow the prospective buyer to visualize living there. Although it can be difficult, that means removing as many things personalized to you and your family as possible. This starts by getting rid of clutter and taking down personal photos. You still want to leave some decorations visible, but try to ensure they're entirely generic.
1. Group Your Furniture to Make the Room Appear Larger
It's a common mistake to push furniture against a wall to make the room seem larger. It's better to pull each piece away from the wall to make the flow of foot traffic apparent to anyone who views the room. Try placing the sofa and chairs into groups that would make it easy for people sitting into them to have a conversation. This makes the room look larger as well as more inviting.
2. Make Sure You Have Good Lighting in Every Room
Dim lights or a lack of lights can turn a potential buyer off because it makes the property seem unfriendly. When staging your home, invest in 100-watt bulbs and make sure you have one bulb shining for every 50 square feet that you want buyers to see. Real estate professionals also recommend displaying the following types of lighting:
• Accent: Accent lighting is for your floors and walls
• Ambient: This is general or overhead lighting
• Task: This goes underneath cabinets or acts as a reading light
3. Get More Advice from a Professional
These are just a handful of things that have proven successful for home staging. A local real estate agent can give you more ideas as well as assist you with the actual staging. Think of preparing your home in the same way you would prepare yourself to go on a job interview. First impressions mean everything.
Increasing Inventory Would Boost Decreasing Home Sales
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing-home sales fell in January for the second month in a row. What's more, year-over-year sales saw their steepest decline in over three years. Sales declined both monthly and annually in every region across the country.
More Buyers but Fewer Homes
According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, buyer traffic increased from the same time a year earlier. Yet despite buyer interest, sales were muted overall. The reason is a severe inventory shortage. Inventory in January climbed to 1.52 million listings available for sale, a month-over-month increase of 4.1 percent. However, this is still 9.5 percent fewer homes available for sale than January 2017, when listings reached 1.68 million. For the past 32 months, inventory has seen year-over-year declines. At the current sales pace, current inventory levels would stock the housing market for only 3.4 months, down from a 3.6-month supply a year ago. "It's very clear that too many markets right now are becoming less affordable and desperately need more new listings to calm the speedy price growth," adds Yun.
As inventory levels dropped, housing affordability took a hit. The median existing-home price in January climbed 5.8 percent year over year to $240,500. For 71 consecutive months, home prices have posted yearly gains. In the West, the median price climbed to $362,600—8.8 percent higher than at the same time last year.
New Homes Wanted
According to Yun, "The underproduction of single-family homes over the last decade has played a predominant role in the current inventory crisis that is weighing on affordability." Inventory levels could see an improvement in the coming months, as new home construction posted gains in January. In addition, home builder confidence is high, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. If new home construction increases throughout the year, it could help bring an end to inventory shortages and housing affordability woes.
Northeast - Existing-home sales annual rate of 730,000; a decrease of 1.4 percent from December 2017 and 7.6 percent from January 2017
Midwest - Existing-home sales annual rate of 1.25 million; a decrease of 6 percent from December 2017 and 3.8 percent from January 2017
South - Existing-home sales annual rate of 2.26 million; a decrease of 1.3 percent from December 2017 and 1.7 percent from January 2017
West - Existing-home sales annual rate of 1.14 million; a decrease of 5 percent from December 2017 and 9.5 percent from January 2017.
bureau disputes no longer work for recent late payment:
The old 30 day credit bureau dispute method no longer works for
recent late payments, because the credit bureaus have switched to automatic
dispute verifications where all the bureaus do is correspond to the creditor
via their data exchange interface known as E-Oscar (http://www.e-oscar.org/about-e-oscar.aspx).
Hence unlike the older days are no phone calls or written communication that is
exchanged, this interface verifies millions of accounts that are disputed every
month by consumers in quick fashion. I have dealt with numerous creditors over
the years and have enjoyed a high success rate in removing such late payments. So
let me explain what I’ve discovered over the years.
Way to Remove a 30-60 Day Late Payment
Step 1: Calling the Creditor’s Special Credit Bureau
The only way to remove the recent late payment from the credit
report is by getting the original creditor to agree to remove the late payment.
The simple first step is to call the creditor and see if they have a special
department that handles their credit bureau reporting. Once you are transferred
to them, ask for a goodwill removal of the late payment form the credit report.
If they agree, then ask them to send you a letter they are removing the late
payment from the credit report. Make sure to assert that you want the late
payment removed from the credit report and that you are not referring to the
late payment penalty fee that may have incurred.
Normally if the creditor agrees to remove the late payment they
will themselves update the account history on the credit report. The likes of
Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo often update accounts within a couple of
weeks. However, in the majority of such cases creditors do not removal late
payments and claim that they are not authorized to remove a late payment unless
it was erroneously reported, in which case we move to step 2.
Step 2 : Making the Case with the creditor’s higher
If the first call has not worked, then that means you are in for
the long haul to deal with the creditor. The next phase here would be to either
engage the creditor’s higher management or their credit bureau department.
However, you will need to make a solid case with the management and document
The case you would need to make here is that although the
payment was late, it was not due to your inability to make the payment, but
instead was due to you not being aware of it being due.
For instance, if the late payment incurred due to the fact that
you were out of town, it would be advisable to provide the creditor with proof
of your travels and as well evidence that you had sufficient funds in your bank
account to make the payment that was due. In spite of this creditors often can
brush aside such requests and stick to their position that the late payments.
Chase and Bank of America in particular are very stringent when it comes to
removing late payments.
Step 3: Lodging Complaints Against the Card Companies:
At this stage, you can get the different regulatory agencies
involved like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/) and
lodge a complaint against the creditor. The complaint cannot be made under the
premise that the creditor acted illegally and violated your rights under the
FCRA, however you can make the argument that despite the reasonable case that
you’ve made, the creditor is acting “unreasonably.” The CFPB (Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau) will investigate your complaint and forward it to
the creditor for a response. Since the CFPB tracks complaints against
creditors, the creditors are motivated to resolve all complaints.
Normally you can expect a response from the creditors within 15
days and if the creditor does not respond favorably, the CFPB allows you the
option to dispute the creditors response. If the creditor agrees to remove the
late payment, they will forward you confirming through the CFPB website that
they are doing so. Hence, the CFPB has provided consumers with an effective
tool in dealing with such issues.