Cut Refinancing Expenses

iStock_000016148905XSmall(er).jpgEvery single day, homeowners who are excited about lowering their rate have a tendency to ignore the refinancing costs because they’re being rolled back into the new mortgage. If the payment is lower than what they’re currently paying and there’s no money out of pocket, it seems like a good deal.

Refinancing your home because a lower rate is available is one thing but the closing costs associated with that new loan could add several thousand dollars to your mortgage balance. By following some of the suggestions listed below, you may be able to reduce the expense to refinance.

• Tell the lender up-front that you want to have the loan quoted with minimal closing costs.
• Check with your existing lender to see if the rate and closing costs might be cheaper.
• If you’re refinancing a FHA or VA loan, consider the streamline refinance.
• Shop around with other lenders and compare rate and closing costs.
• Credit unions may have lower closing costs because they are generally loaning deposits and their cost of funds is less.
• Reducing the loan-to-value so that mortgage insurance is not required will reduce expenses.
• Ask if the lender can use an AVM, automated valuation model, instead of an appraisal.
• You may not need a new survey if no changes have been made.
• There may be a discount on the mortgagee’s title policy available on a refinance.
• Points on refinancing, unlike purchase, are ratably deductible over the life of the loan.
• Consider a 15 year loan. If you can afford the higher payments, you can expect a lower interest rate than a 30 year loan and obviously, it will build equity faster and pay off in half the time.

A lender must provide you a list of the fees involved with making the loan within 3 days of making a loan application in the form of a Good Faith Estimate. Every dollar counts and they belong to you.

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Shifting Debt to Tax Deductible

shift debt.pngThe Mortgage Interest Deduction is available to homeowners for up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt on the combination of their first and second home. They can also deduct interest on up to an additional $100,000 of Home Equity debt.

While Acquisition Debt is used to buy, build or improve a principal residence, the Home Equity Debt can be used for any purpose. It can be used for educational or medical expenses, to purchase a personal car or boat, consolidate debts or pay off credit cards.

A homeowner with $15,000 of credit card debt at 19% and sufficient equity in their home could replace it with a home equity loan at much lower interest rate. Not only would the interest rate on the home equity loan be about 1/3 of the rate paid on the credit card, it’s would now be tax deductible.

If the taxpayer was in the 28% bracket, the net interest on a 6.5% loan would be 4.68% after tax benefits are considered.
Shifting personal debt to Home Equity debt can result in an interest deduction and probably, a lower interest rate. For more information see IRS Publication 936 page 10 and consult your tax professional.

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When to Sell the Temporary Rental

Temporary Rental2.pngSome homeowners, who were not able to sell during the recession, chose to rent their homes instead. In some cases, they didn’t need to sell their home at the depressed prices and opted to rent it until the market recovered.

It’s a valid strategy but there are time restrictions that could have serious tax implications for some homeowners.

The section 121 exclusion for gain in a principal residence requires that the home is owned and used as a main home for at least two years during the five year period ending on the date of the sale. This allows a homeowner to rent their home for up to three years and still have some part of the exclusion available.

The sale of a home with a $200,000 gain that qualifies as a principal residence would result in no tax being paid by the owner. Comparably, a rental property with the same gain could have a $30,000 or higher tax liability depending on the length of ownership and tax brackets of the investor.

The housing market has dramatically improved in the last year. If you have a gain in a home that has been your principal residence and it has been rented less than three years, you might want to consider selling it while you qualify for the exclusion.

If you are considering a sale on your principal residence that has been rented, consult with your tax professional for advice on your specific situation. For additional information, see IRS Publication 523.

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Boomerang Buyers

Waiting periods.pngIt’s estimated that 10% of the homes sold in 2013 will be to buyers who lost a home in the past five years. Approximately 500,000 buyers who may have thought they wouldn’t own a home anytime in the near future will be homeowners again.

It’s estimated that several million of these previous homeowners will purchase again in the next eight years. This kind of activity will contribute significantly to the housing recovery.

Some people thought that the housing crisis would cause a shift in values placed on owning a home but the boomerang buyers definitely don’t support that theory. Having a home of your own, where you can raise your family, share with your friends and feel safe and secure is still part of the American Dream.

The rising rents, increasing prices and low, low mortgage rates are also influencing buyers into the market. In many cases, it is cheaper to own that to rent.

All new buyers, including those who have experienced foreclosures or bankruptcies, must have good credit history and the ability to repay the loan. It just may not take as long to reestablish the credit as some would-be buyers might have thought.

Read more about Bidding Wars This Spring, Spring’s Wild Card and Boomerang Buyers.

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Bunch Your Taxes and Save

iStock_000016195030XSmall(er).jpgOne of the drawbacks to low mortgage rates is that the total interest and property taxes paid for the year may be lower than the standard deduction. A little planning might be able to help you at least every other year.

Most homeowners know they can deduct their qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on their Schedule A of their 1040 tax return or to take the standard deduction if it is greater. See Your Deduction…Your Choice.

Deductions are taken in the year that they’re actually paid. If a homeowner paid their 2012 property taxes in 2013, they would not be deductible on their 2012 tax return. Then, if the 2013 property taxes were paid in 2013, both the 2012 and 2013 taxes could be deducted on the 2013 Schedule A.

By delaying the payment of the 2012 taxes until 2013, the combination of the 2012 and 2013 taxes might exceed the 2013 standard deduction and provide a higher deduction.

Other Schedule A expenses such as charitable contributions and medical expenses may be bunched also. From a practical standpoint, since most mortgage payments are due monthly, the mortgage interest would not be bunched.

This information should be discussed with your tax advisor to see how it might apply to your individual situation. The key is you must be aware of the strategy early to be able to use it.

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Maintaining Comfort

iStock_000019943204XSmall(er).jpgSome people refer to the heating and air conditioning systems as the “comfort systems.” If you’ve ever had to be without one in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, lack of comfort may be an understatement. Simple maintenance with a HVAC checklist is something that every homeowner can perform.


  • Change your filter every 90 days; every 30 days if you have shedding pets.
  • Maintain at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  • Don’t allow leaves, grass clippings, lint or other things to block circulation of coils.
  • Inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into house monthly and replace if missing or damaged.

Annual, in spring

  • Confirm that outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps are on level pads.
  • Pour bleach in the air conditioner’s condensation drain to clear mold and algae which can cause a clog.
  • Avoid closing more than 20% of a home’s registers to keep from overworking the system.
  • Replace the battery in the home’s carbon monoxide detector.

Even with the attention that perfoming this list will provide, it is recommended that you have your units serviced annually by a licensed contractor. Furnaces can be inspected for carbon monoxide leaks and preventative maintenance may help avoid costly repairs. Click Here if you’d like a recommendation.

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Your Deduction…Your Choice

Taxpayers are allowed to decide each year whether to take the standard deduction or to itemize their deduction when filing their personal income tax returns. Roughly, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deductions.Itemized Deductions.png

The 2012 standard deduction, available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they own a home, is $11,900 for married filing jointly and $5,950 for single taxpayers.

Let’s look at an example of a homeowner couple with a $150,000 mortgage at 3.5%. The standard deduction would give them $2,650 more than the total of their interest paid and property taxes of approximately $9,250. If they were in the 28% tax bracket, the actual tax savings would be $742.00.

When mortgage rates were considerably higher, many people expected the interest and property taxes to easily exceed the standard deduction but with today’s low rates, a comparison is certainly justified.

There are other things that could come into consideration like charitable contributions, medical expenses and casualty losses. Tax professionals will compare available alternatives to find the one that will benefit the taxpayer most.

For more information, see and consult a tax advisor.

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