Monday, January 7, 2019

Eliminate FHA Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance premium can add almost $200 to the payment on a $265,000 FHA mortgage.  The decision to get an FHA loan may have been the lower down payment requirement or the lower credit score levels, but now that you have the loan, is it possible to eliminate it?
Mortgage Insurance Premium protects lenders in case of a borrower's default and is required on FHA loans.  The Up-Front MIP is currently 1.75% of the base loan amount and paid at the time of closing.  Annual MIP for loans with greater than 95% loan-to-value is .85% per year. 
For loans with FHA case numbers assigned before June 3, 2013, when the loan is paid down to 78% of the original loan amount, the MIP can be cancelled.  The borrower may need to contact the current servicer.
However, for loans greater than 90% with FHA case numbers assigned on or after that date, the MIP is required for the term of the loan.
Most homeowners with FHA mortgages are not eligible to cancel the MIP because they either originated their loan after June 3, 2013, put less than 10% down payment and/or got a 30-year loan.  If they have at least 20% equity in the home, they can refinance the home with an 80% conventional loan which in most cases, does not require mortgage insurance.
With normal amortization on a 30-year loan, it takes approximately 11-years to reduce the original loan to the 78-80% requirement based on normal amortization.  There is another dynamic involved which is the appreciation on the home.  As the home goes up in value and the unpaid balance goes down, the equity increases.
If the homeowners believe that they have enough equity that would eliminate the need for mortgage insurance, they can investigate refinancing with a conventional loan.  Borrowers refinancing will incur expenses in starting a new mortgage and the interest rate may be higher than the existing rate.  Analysis will determine how long it will take to recapture the cost of refinancing.
Call me as (256) 705-0733 for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

Monday, December 31, 2018



Year End Tax Newsletter

One of the first steps in a good outcome is knowing a little bit about what you're about to undertake.  By being aware of some of the areas regarding homes that may not come up every year in a tax return, you'll be able to point them out to your tax professional or seek more information from IRS.gov.
Look through this list of items for things that could affect your tax return.  Even if you have relied on the same tax professional for years to look out for your best interests, they need to be aware that there could be something different in this year's return.
If you bought a home for a principal residence last year, check your closing statement and identify any points or pre-paid interest that you or the seller paid based on the mortgage you received.  These can be deducted on your Schedule A as qualified home interest if you itemize your deductions.  See Home Mortgage Interest Deduction | IRS Publication 936 (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).
Keep track of all money you spend on your home that might be considered a capital improvement.  Get in the habit of putting receipts for money spent on your home that is not the house payment or utility bills.  Repairs are not tax deductible but improvements, even small ones, can be added to the basis of your home which can lower the gain when the home is sold.  Years from now, your tax preparer can sift through them and determine whether they're capital improvements or maintenance. See Increases to Basis | IRS Publication 523 Selling Your Home (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).
By making additional principal contributions with your mortgage payment, you'll save interest, build equity and shorten the term of a fixed-rate mortgage.  See Equity Accelerator.
If you sold a home last year, the payoff on your old mortgage included interest from the last payment you made to the date of the payoff.  That interest is tax deductible.  You may need a breakdown of the payoff to the mortgage company; you should be able to get that from your closing officer.
If you refinanced your home, unlike a home purchase, points paid to refinance are not deductible as interest in the year paid; they must spread ratably over the life of the mortgage.  See Home Mortgage Interest Deduction | IRS Publication 936 (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).
For homeowners who have lost a spouse, there is an exception regarding the exclusion on the sale of a principal residence.  If the surviving spouse concludes a sale of the home within two years of the death of their spouse, they may exclude up to $500,000, instead of $250,000 for single taxpayers, of gain provided ownership and use tests are met prior to death.
The two-year period begins on the date of death and ends two years after that date.  See Sale of Main Home by Surviving Spouse | IRS Publication 523 Selling Your Home (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).
There could be significant tax consequences to a person selling a home that was received as a gift as compared to receiving the home through inheritance.  With a gift, the basis of the donor becomes the basis of the donee.  With inheritance, the heir usually gets a stepped-up basis and avoids potential unrecognized gain.  See Home Received as Inheritance | IRS Publication 523 Selling Your Home (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).
Click here to download a Homeowners Tax Guide.  This is meant for information purposes only and advice from a qualified tax professional should be sought to find out about your individual situation.
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Monday, November 5, 2018

Getting the "Right" Home

Finding the right home is still the biggest challenge buyers are faced with in today's market as is shown in the latest Confidence Index Survey.  Assuming the buyers find the "right" home with determination, perseverance and the help of a real estate professional, 88% of all transactions last year required financing to get the buyer's address on the home.  93% of first-time buyers needed financing.
Pre-approval is an essential step that needs to be handled before buyers begin searching for a home.  The benefits to the buyer fall into the category of confidence.
PRE-APPROVAL GIVES YOU CONFIDENCE
  • Knowing the amount you can borrow  
    the mortgage amount decreases as interest rates rise
  • Looking at the right priced homes
    price, size, amenities, location
  • Comparing and identifying the best loan
    rate, term, type
  • Uncover issues early that could affect the most favorable loan terms
    time to cure possible problems
  • Bargaining power to negotiate with the seller and possibly, competing buyers
    price, terms, & timing
  • Settlement can occur sooner after contact is acceptedverifications have already been made
Items Needed for Pre-Approval
  • Photo ID
  • Two months current pay stubs
  • Last two year's W2s
  • Complete copies of checking and savings statements for last three months
  • Copies of statements for IRAs, 401k, savings, CDs, money market funds, etc.
  • Employment history for last two years with addresses and contacts
  • Proof of commissioned or bonus income
  • Residency history for last two years with addresses and contacts
  • Assets for down payment, closing costs, and reserves; must provide paper trail
  • If self-employed, last two years tax returns, current profit and loss statement and balance sheet; copy of partnership/corporate tax returns for last two years if owning more than 25% of company
  • FHA requires driver's license and social security card
  • VA requires original certificate of eligibility and DD214
  • Other things may be required such as previous bankruptcy, divorce decree
Contact us at (256) 705-0733 or Bob@BobGifford.com if you'd like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Start Early and Live Happily Ever-after


As storybooks go, the character is introduced, they meet their love interest, a villain thwarts their intentions, true love overcomes, they marry and live happily ever-after.  It's a very familiar formula.
Similarly, there is a formula that couples follow in real life.  They go to college, get a good job, rent a home, fall in love, get married and buy a starter home.  They start a family, move into a larger home, save for their children's education, start planning for their retirement and if they live within their means, they invest their surplus funds.
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An alternative to this might be to start investing in rental homes early in their adult life before their standard of living becomes so expensive that they don't feel like they have the money to purchase rentals.  There are infinite possibilities but let's say a single person, after getting a good job, buys a small three or four-bedroom home with an owner-occupied, minimum down payment.  They move into the home and possibly, rent out the bedrooms to other singles who need a place to live.
At some point, they decide to buy another home to live in with a minimum down payment and either rent out their bedroom in the first home or rent the whole home to a tenant.  And they repeat the process again with the second home.
This could continue until they acquired several homes.  Let's say, that in the meantime, they have met their love interest, decide to get married and together, they buy a starter home for them to live in.
This concept advances the investment in rental homes from the latter part of their lives to the early part of their life.  The early investment gives them more time for appreciation and wealth accumulation.  A simple principle of investing is that sooner is better than later.  By delaying gratification to own your "dream home" early, a person may be able to accumulate more net worth in the same period of time.
Buying a property initially as owner-occupied permits a lower down payment of 3.5% compared to a typical down payment for non-owner-occupied properties is 20%.  By using more borrowed funds, leverage can increase the yield on the investment.
It may be too late for some people reading this article to adopt this strategy but if they have kids in college, it may be something for them to consider.

Monday, October 22, 2018

It's Not Just the Tax Benefits


When the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly was increased from $12,700 to $24,000 for 2018, there was some speculation that the bloom was off the rose of homeownership.  The thought was that if the tax benefits from being able to deduct the property taxes and interest was less than the standard deduction, that maybe, the buyer would be better off continuing to rent.
With mortgage rates as low as they have been for the past eight years, payments have been lower and so has the amount interest that was paid.  This and the fact that sales and local taxes, which include property taxes, are limited to $10,000 a year on the Itemized Deduction form have made it harder to reach the increased standard deduction.
The reality of the situation is tax benefits are only one of the components that make a home an excellent investment and it probably contributes the least of the top three benefits.  Principal reduction and appreciation build an owner's equity in an automatic way that is like a forced savings account.
In today's market, it is common for the total house payment to be lower than the rent a first-time home buyer is currently paying.  As a homeowner, the buyer would have additional expenses like maintenance and possibly, a HOA. 
To illustrate the net effect, let's look at a purchase price of $275,000 with 3.5% down payment on a 4.75% 30-year FHA loan.  We'll assume the home appreciates at 3% annually and the buyer is currently paying $2,000 a month rent.
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The total payment is $2,115 including principal, interest, property taxes, property and mortgage insurance. However, when you consider the monthly principal reduction, appreciation, maintenance and HOA, the net cost of housing is $1,181. It costs $819 more a month to rent than to own. In a year's time, it would cost $9,831 more to rent than to own which is more than the down payment required to buy the home.
In seven-years, the $9,625 down payment would grow to over $58,000 in equity.  The equity build-up far exceeds the tax benefits which some people would have as an additional incentive. Use this Rent vs. Own to see what the net cost of housing would be using a home in your price range or call me at (256) 705-0733 and I'll do it for you.

Monday, September 24, 2018


How to Clean Gutters

The gutters and downspouts on your home are intended to channel rainwater away from your home and its foundation.  When they're blocked and not functioning properly they can lead to the gutters coming loose, wood rot and mildew, staining of painted surfaces, and even worse, foundation issues or water penetration into the interior of the home.
Most experts recommend cleaning the gutters at least once a year.  More often might be necessary depending on the proximity of leaves and other debris that could collect.
If this is a task that you feel comfortable about tackling yourself, there are few things to consider.  If the debris is dry, it will be easier to clean the gutters.  Safety is important, and precautions should be taken such as using a sturdy ladder and possibly, having someone hold it while you're on the ladder.
Other useful tools will be a five-gallon plastic bucket to hook on the ladder to hold the debris; work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges of the gutters; a trowel or scoop and a garden hose with a nozzle.
?         Start by placing the ladder near a downspout for the section of gutter to be cleaned.
?         Remove large debris and put it into the empty bucket. Work away from the downspout toward the other end.
?         When you're at the end of the gutter, using the water hose and nozzle, spray out the gutter so it will drain to the downspout.
?         If the water doesn't drain easily, the downspout could be blocked.  Accessing the spout from the bottom with either the hose with nozzle or a plumber's snake, try to dislodge the blockage.
?         Reattach or tighten any pieces that were removed or loosened while working on the downspout.
?         Flush the gutters a final time, working from the opposite end, as before, toward the downspout.
There are specialized tools at the home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot that can make this job easier.  Check out their websites and search for "gutter cleaning".

Monday, September 10, 2018


No one wants to waste water or money.  For that reason, take a few minutes every other month to do the following inspections:
  1. Check to see if cutoff valves on sinks and toilets are working properly.
    Many times, builders will put individual cutoffs on supply lines to sinks and toilets.  It is reasonable to expect them to work but after some time, they can corrode which prevents opening and closing.  It is a good idea to test them occasionally before you need them in an emergency.

  2.  Fill each sink with a few inches of water to see if they drain in what you feel is a normal time.
    A slow-draining sink can be an indication of a clog that builds up around the insides of the pipe.  Common causes are food, grease, hair and soap scum.  Plunging can take care of some slow-running sinks.  After partially filling the sink with water, seal the plunger over the drain and pump it up and down a few times.

  3.   Inspect each toilet to see if they are leaking water from the tank into the bowl.
    Toilets that continue to run after being flushed can use a large amount of water in a month's time.  Generally, the problem comes from a flapper that doesn't seat properly.  Sometimes, the chain is keeping it from closing properly or the flapper itself may need to be replaced.
    Another issue could be that the flush valve needs to be replaced.  These can be purchased at Lowe's or Home Depot for about $20.00 and are relatively easy to change out.  There are lots of instructional videos on the internet and it can save money if you give it a try.
If you need a recommendation for a good plumber to take care of something you discover, please feel free to call me at (256) 797-3747.