Phil's Blog

Is Homeownership a Good FINANCIAL Decision?

February 13, 2013

Many have reported on Robert Shiller’s recent comments on the investment aspect of homeownership. Shiller, a Yale professor and co-founder of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, is famous for making provocative comments on house prices and the financial benefits of owning a home. In a recent Bloomberg Television interview, Shiller responded to a question about homeownership as an investment this way:

“So, why was it considered an investment? That was a fad. That was an idea that took hold in the early 2000′s. And I don’t expect it to come back. Not with the same force. So people might just decide, ‘Yeah, I’ll diversify my portfolio. I’ll live in a rental.’ That is a very sensible thing for many people to do.”

Today, we would like to debate Shiller’s notion by offering three FINANCIAL reasons to purchase a home:

1.) You Can’t Live in Your IRA

When you buy your own home you are not taking available dollars away from another investment. You are replacing one housing expense (rent) which has no potential for a return on investment with another (mortgage payment) that does give you an opportunity for a return. We realize that there has been research showing that over the last 30 years renting has been less expensive than owning. That research also says that if you invested the entire difference between the rent payment and mortgage payment you may have done better financially. There are two challenges with this conclusion:

  • Today, in the vast majority of the country, renting is actually more expensive than owning a home.
  • History has proven that tenants DO NOT invest the difference in their rent and mortgage payments.

2.) Homeownership Creates Wealth

Paying a mortgage creates what financial experts call ‘forced savings’. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University released a study titled America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities. In the study, they actually quantified the difference in family wealth between renters and homeowners:

“[R]enters have only a fraction of the net wealth of owners. Near the peak of the housing bubble in 2007, the median net wealth of homeowners was $234,600—about 46 times the $5,100 median for renters. Even if homeowner wealth fell back to 1995 levels, it would still be 27.5 times the median for renters.”

3.) There Are Tremendous Tax Advantages to Investing in a Home

There is no doubt that selling an investment such as gold is easier than selling your home. However, this liquidity comes at a price. The price is called capital gains. That is the tax you pay on any financial gain you receive from the investment. This tax doesn’t apply the same way when you sell your primary residence:

Theresa Palagonia, a CPA and the Accounting Manager for the firm G.S. Garritano & Associates, was good enough to explain the Home Sale Exclusion Rules:

“You may qualify to exclude from your income all or part of any gain from the sale of your main home.

Maximum Exclusion

You can exclude up to $250,000 of the gain on the sale of your main home if all of the following are true:

  • You meet the ownership test.
  • You meet the use test.
  • During the 2 year period ending on the date of the sale, you did not exclude gain from the sale of another home.

If you and another person owned the home jointly but file separate returns, each of you can exclude up to $250,000 of gain from the sale of your interest in the home if each of you meets the three conditions listed above.

You may be able to exclude up to $500,000 of the gain on the sale of your main home if you are married and file a joint return and meet the requirements. (Special rules apply for joint returns.)

We will let you decide for yourself whether homeownership makes sense financially.

Thinking of Buying Your Dream Home? DO IT NOW!

February 12, 2013

Thinking of Buying Your Dream Home? DO IT NOW!

A recent survey showed that 3 out of 4 future home buyers (who are not first time buyers) plan to move up to some form of a ‘better’ home. The breakdown:

  • Move to a significantly bigger home (49%)
  • Move to a nicer home (17.5%)
  • Move to a nicer part of town (8.6%)

If you or your family falls into any one of these categories, you should strongly consider making the move sooner than later. The ‘cost’ of your new dream house will be determined by two factors: the price of the house and the mortgage interest rate. Both are projected to increase this year.

Prices Set to Increase

In the recent Home Price Expectation Survey, 105 leading housing analysts called for a 3.1% increase in home values by the end of 2013.

Mortgage Interest Rates Projected to Increase

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, after reaching record lows in 2012, the 30 year mortgage rates are expected to creep up slowly in 2013 to 4.4%.

Now is a great time to buy the home you always dreamt of owning. However, the longer you wait, the more it will cost.

House Prices: When Will 2006 Values Return?

February 11, 2013
House Prices: When Will 2006 Values Return?

There is a lot of optimism regarding house prices. The most recentHome Price Expectation Survey projects a 3% -3.5% increase in values for each of the next 5 years. We concur that most parts of the country will see varying levels of appreciation over that time. However, we must realize that we will not see 2006 values any time soon.

Barclays’ U.S. residential credit strategy team recently predicted that 2006 values would return in 2021. From an article in DSNews:

“While the floor appears to have materialized, they stress that home prices are likely to recover slowly over the next 4 to 5 years.

“We expect on average a 3-4 percent annual increase in home prices [nationally] in coming years,” they said in an updated market outlook.

At that rate, Barclays’ analysts explained, home prices will be slightly below their 2006 peaks even in 2020, finally returning to pre-crisis peak levels in June 2021.

In an article for CNNMoney, the analytics firm Fiserv projected that 2006 prices would not return until 2023:

“Fiserv forecasts prices will bounce back an average of 3.7% a year for the next five years — a rate that would still leave prices 20% below the peak. At that forecasted growth rate, the national average high of $238,000 would not be hit again until 2023.”

If you are waiting for 2006 values to return before selling your house, realize it will take years.

Short Sales – 10 Common Myths Busted

February 6, 2013

It’s likely you’ve heard the term “short sale” thrown around quite a bit. What exactly is a short sale?

A short sale is when a bank agrees to accept less than the total amount owed on a mortgage to avoid having to foreclose on the property. This is not a new practice; banks have been doing short sales for years. Only recently, due to the current state of the housing market and economy, has this process become a part of the public consciousness.

To be eligible for a short sale you first have to qualify!

To qualify for a short sale:

  • Your house must be worth less than you owe on it.
  • You must be able to prove that you are the victim of a true financial hardship, such as a decrease in wages, job loss, or medical condition that has altered your ability to make the same income as when the loan was originated. Divorce, estate situations, etc… also qualify. There are some exceptions to hardship now, but for the most part the bank or investor will need to verify some type of hardship.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a short sale is, there are some huge misconceptions when it comes to a short sale vs. a foreclosure. We take the most common myths surrounding both short sales and foreclosures and give a brief explanation. LET’S BUST SOME MYTHS!!

1.) If you let your home go to foreclosure you are done with the situation and you can walk away with a clean slate. The reality is that this couldn’t be any farther from the truth in most situations. You could end up with an IRS tax liability and still owing the bank money. Let me explain. Please keep in mind that if your property does go into foreclosure you may be liable for the difference of what is owed on the property versus what is sells for at auction, in the form of a deficiency balance! Please note this is state specific and in most states you will be liable for the shortfall, but in some states the bank may not always be able to pursue the debt. Check your state law as it varies widely from state to state.

Here is an example of how a deficiency balance works:

If you owe $200,000 on the property and it sells at auction for $150,000, you could be liable for the $50,000 difference if your state law allows it.

Not only could you be liable for the difference to the bank, but in some situations you could also be liable to the IRS! Although there are exemptions (mostly for principle residences) under the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act, there are times when you could be taxed on both a short sale and a foreclosure, even in a principle residence situation. Since the tax code on this is a little complicated and I am not a CPA, I advise always talking to a CPA when in this situation as you are weighing your options. Banks and the IRS can go as far as attaching your wages. Not to mention if you let your home go to foreclosure you will have that on your credit, as well.

Guess What? A short sale can alleviate your liability to the bank, in most situations. There are also exceptions to this, but in most cases banks are releasing homeowners from the deficiency balance on a short sale.

2.) There are no options to avoid foreclosure. Now more than ever, there are options to avoid foreclosure. Besides a short sale, loan modifications along with deed in lieu are also examples of the many options. In most cases (but not all) a short sale is the best option. Either way, there are more options today than there have ever been to avoid foreclosure.

3.) Banks do not want to participate in a short sale, or, it is too hard to qualify for a short sale. Banks would rather perform a short sale than a foreclosure any day. A foreclosure takes a long time and creates a huge expense for the banks; a short sale saves both time and money. In working with some of the biggest lenders and servicers in the country they have told me that on average they net 17-25% more on a short sale than on a foreclosure. A testament to this is the financial incentives now being offered by banks, and how much the entire process has recently changed to try and streamline the process for all parties. Banks more than ever welcome short sales. Qualifying for a short sale is easier than you think, you need to have a true financial hardship, or a change in your finances and your house has to be worth less than what you owe on it. Not only do consumers, but banks also now have government incentives to participate in short sales.

4.) Short sales are not that common. At this present time, short sales range from 10-50 % of sales in various markets and it is predicted that in 2013 we will have more short sales than any other year, to date. One of the biggest reasons is that MHA(Making Home Affordable expires December 2013). Many of the Government incentives like HAFA, will expire the end of this year. Due to economic changes in the last few years, this is something that is affecting millions of Americans. Short sales are in every market, and are not just limited to any particular income class. This has affected everyone from all facets of life. A short sale should be looked at as a helpful tool, not a negative stigma.That is why the government is offering programs that actually pay consumers to participate in short sales. It is not just affecting one community; it is affecting communities and consumers across the nation.

5.) The short sale process is too difficult and they often get denied. Though the short sale process is time consuming; it is not as difficult as the media would have you believe. The problem is that most short sales are denied because of a misunderstanding of the process. It is true that if the short sale process is not followed correctly there is a good chance of getting denied. An experienced agent knows how to avoid this. Short sales require a lot of experience, and a special skill set. If you are looking to go the option of a short sale make sure your agent is skilled and experienced in this area.

6.) Short sales will cost me money out of pocket. A short sale should not cost you any out of pocket money. In fact, you could get between $3000-up to $30,000 to participate in a short sale. In many ways, a short sale may put you in a better financial position than prior to the short sale. Almost every short sale program now has some type of financial incentive for the home owner, as long as it is a principle residence, and we are even seeing relocation money being paid on some investment/second homes. As a seller of a property you should never have to pay for any short sale cost upfront to any professional service. Realtors charge a commission that is paid for by the bank. In most communities there are also non-profits and HUD counselors who can help you with foreclosure prevention options for free. The only potential cost you could incur is if the bank would not release you from a deficiency balance in the short sale, which is happening less and less now.

7.) If I am behind on my payments, I can perform a short sale any time. The farther you get behind on your payments, the harder it is to get a short sale approved. The closer a property gets to a foreclosure the harder it is to convince the bank to perform a short sale. As they get closer to a foreclosure sale more money is spent, thus deterring them from doing a short sale. If you think you need to perform a short sale, time is of the essence; the sooner you start the process, the better. Waiting too long can trigger the ramifications of a foreclosure, losing the ability to do a short sale as a viable option.

8.) I have already been sent a foreclosure notice so I can’t perform a short sale. For the most part just because you received a foreclosure notice or notice of default it does not mean that you do not have time to perform a short sale. The timeline and specifics do vary from state to state, but having done short sales all over the country, I have seen banks postpone a foreclosure to work a short sale option as close as 30 days prior to the scheduled foreclosure auction, but the longer you wait the less chance you have. If you have received a legal foreclosure notice, please reach out to a professional right away. The longer you wait, and the closer you get to foreclosure, the fewer options you have. If you have received a notice to foreclose this means the bank is filing paperwork and starting the process to take legal action to repossess the house. You still have time at this point to prevent foreclosure, but do not hesitate! The closer you get to the foreclosure date the harder it becomes to negotiate with the bank for whichever option you choose.

9.) I was denied for a loan modification, so I know I will get denied for a short sale. Short sales and loan modifications are handled by two separate departments at the bank. These processes are totally different in approval and denial. If you got denied for a modification you can still apply for a short sale; in some cases you can get a short sale approved faster than a loan modification, as some loan modifications are denied because they cannot reduce the loan low enough based on the consumers income.

10.) If I go through a short sale I cannot buy another house for a long time. The time to buy another house depends on your entire credit picture and can vary from 2-3 years. Fannie and Freddie just came out November first and said a homeowner may be eligible two years after a short sale to repurchase. There are even a few FHA programs that allow for a purchase sooner than that, but the guidelines are fairly strict. Some regional and local banks will finance 16-18 months after a short sale, but the interest rate will more than likely be higher than one of the national chains, and this is based on their specific under writing guidelines.

These are just a few of the common myths surrounding short sales and foreclosure. With the options available today, no homeowner should ever have to go through foreclosure, and hopefully this information can help a few more homeowners think twice before walking away from their home not realizing the possible long term ramifications a foreclosure can have.

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