New Tax Plan Will Affect Home Sellers Living in Homes Under 5 Years

December 11th, 2017

If you are a future home seller the new tax plan will affect your taxes, so pay attention. Both the House and Senate bills plan to extend the tax benefit that home sellers receive, and this can hurt your bottom line.

The current law allows home owners a tax break upon resale of their property – primary residences only– if they lived in the home for at least 2 of 5 years. Both new plans will increase that to 5 of 8 years. The House and Senate plan to straighten out the differences in their respective plans by the end of the year, and new laws will likely take effect January 1, 2018. Even if the changes are not made until after the first of the year they will likely be retroactive to January 1.

What this means is that sellers who are thinking of selling their primary residence home in 2018, who have not lived there at least 5 years, will not be able to obtain the current tax benefits allowed to those same sellers who have lived in the home at least 2 years.

If you are thinking of selling your primary residence in 2018 and have not lived there at least 5 years, it is advisable to speak with your accountant to find out how much you will need to pay in taxes. Your adviser may need to wait until the plan is approved in order to calculate this number.

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Loan Limit Rate Changes for 2018

December 1st, 2017

There is some good news on the real estate horizon for borrowers – the Federal Housing Agency (FHA) recently announced that the maximum conforming loan limits will be increased for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages in 2018. High balance/super conforming maximum loan amounts in San Diego County will be $649,750.00 for single unit properties. (See below for all types of properties).

Maximum conforming loan limit for single unit properties across most of the country will increase to $453,100 in 2018. This is an increase from the current maximum of $424,100. Some counties will go up to $679,650 for single unit properties. Anything above this will be considered jumbo financing.

It is important to note that the above rates only apply to conventional loans, not to FHA and VA. But my mortgage professional tells me that those will soon change as well.

Here are the new Conventional Loan Limits for San Diego, California:

2018 Loan Limit – 1 Unit
$649,750

2018 Loan Limit – 2 Unit
$831,800

2018 Loan Limit – 3 Unit
$1,005,450

2018 Loan Limit – 4 Unit
$1,249,550

If you have any questions you can contact my mortgage broker extraordinaire, Elvin Wesley with Ranch and Coast Mortgage, at 760-580-1733.

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North San Diego Coastal Real Estate Sales: 10/16-10/17

November 30th, 2017

Sales in North San Diego have jumped considerably between October 2016 and October 2017. The chief economist for the California Association of Realtors predicts that sales will be up 8% for the year. For 2018 the prediction is a 4.2% in appreciation and a slight increase in sales volume.

Here are the statistics for North County coastal zip codes from October 2016 to October 2017, for both single family homes (SFR) and condos:

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On Being Thankful…

November 21st, 2017

Sometimes it is hard for us to remember that there is so much to be thankful for…in a world where there are economic, social, political and personal problems on a daily basis, many of which we cannot escape being thrown in our faces through media and social media….BUT…

Although it may be difficult at times to focus on the positive and wonderful parts of this world and our lives, Thanksgiving gives each one of us pause to reflect on the things for which we are thankful.

Here is my list of things that every one of us can be thankful – you can of course add your own details but there is no excuse to NOT be thankful for the following:

1. Breath

2. Love (self love and the love of others)

3. Health

4. Nature (sky, air, trees, flowers, animals, water, go crazy here but there is beauty everywhere)

5. Laughter (if you don’t have this in your life, or not enough, find it!)

6. Relationships (people, animals, memories)

Ok so I know this list is very broad in scope, but since I didn’t think anyone wanted to hear my personal details I thought this was a great way to get you to start filling in the blanks. There is not one person who cannot be thankful – whether they are ill or homeless or lost everything important…we are here for such a short time and if we do not make the most of each moment we are not truly living. It starts with appreciating breath and loving ourselves. If we have that we can make our lives beautiful.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! To my family, friends, clients, colleagues and acquaintances – you all inspire me to grow, achieve and to make my life better on a daily basis, and for that I thank you. To all of you, I wish you a beautiful holiday and beyond.

 

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Protect Yourself: What You May Not Know About Escrow Companies

November 15th, 2017

Most people know that escrow is the party that handles the money, paperwork and closing details of a transaction in California (and other states – the remaining states use attorneys for closings). But many do not know that escrow and escrow officers can fall under two regulatory categories, and that this could have an effect on their duty to remain a neutral party to both sides of a property sale.

2 Types of Escrow Companies in California

Independent or licensed escrow companies are independent companies that are licensed by the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO), which are governed by strict regulations designed to protect consumers.

Some of the requirements of independent escrow companies are that they are subject to management and bond requirements, are trust fund insured, are subject to annual financial and procedural audits and Department of Justice investigations of all employees, as well as escrow license requirements.

Controlled, or non-independent, escrow companies are nonlicensed businesses owned by third parties, such as real estate brokerages, attorneys, banks or title companies. These controlled companies are regulated by different licensing and regulatory authorities, which can vary amongst jurisdictions and are not governed as strictly as independent escrow companies.

Escrow officers have a difficult role in that they need to represent both parties in a property sale transaction while remaining neutral. An independent escrow company is the best choice, in my opinion, for real estate parties and clients, as there is more protection offered and there is not the threat of compromised neutrality.

 

 

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Can a Home Seller Be Sued for Contractor’s Knowledge of Problems?

November 1st, 2017

As a home seller it is imperative that you make sure you do everything you can to avoid lawsuits from your new buyers. Failure to disclose has been one of the most litigious causes of action in real estate law. Upon selling property, sellers must disclose all they know about the property according to state mandated forms – this usually includes past insurance claims, any upgrades or improvements, damage to the property, repairs, noise issues, and many other questions. Sellers must answer these questions to the best of their knowledge, and provide explanations and any necessary receipts to verify the claims. But what happens when other people who work on your home make a discovery that could render the home undesirable?

The most recent case, RSB Vineyards, LLC v. Bernard, was upheld by the California Court of Appeals. The court ruled that a seller must have had ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE to be held liable for non-disclosure, and a contractor’s knowledge is not imputed to the seller. In lay terms, this means that if a seller hires a contractor to do work, and the contractor discovers something about the property, the seller cannot be held liable unless the seller was made aware of the problem by the contractor.

In the lawsuit the contractor had converted a residence into a wine tasting room on vineyard property that was later found to be structurally unsound – the buyers found out after they purchased the home and had to demolish the structure. They sued the seller for failure to disclose. The contractor was found to have known about the problem but there was no “actual knowledge” by the sellers.

In many areas of disclosure here in California, the seller CAN be held liable for items about which they should have known. For example, if the sellers notice water stains on a ceiling of a room and do nothing about it, then have the ceiling painted prior to sale, without disclosing the stain…this would likely render the seller liable for failure to disclose, as the water stains obviously indicate some kind of problem. Note that had the seller disclosed the stain and not painted over it, s/he would not be liable. It would then be up to the buyer to investigate and ask for repairs if problems were discovered.

If you are selling a property it is very important to answer ALL questions on the disclosures to the best of your ability. Back up any claims with receipts, documentation, etc. I always tell my clients it is better to over-disclose. Put everything out there so that you do not have to worry about liability down the road. If you are made aware of any issues by a third party, make sure to include that in your disclosures so the buyer can look into it further.

If you are ever unsure of whether or not to disclose something, the rule of thumb is that you should do so. However, I suggest obtaining legal advice…or if your real estate agent happens to be an attorney that could help too 🙂

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How To Stop Annoying Real Estate Calls to Your Landline and Cell Phone

October 23rd, 2017

In the last few years it seems that some real estate agents or brokers have jumped on the phone calling spam bandwagons. They call your home phone, often using canned recordings, or text messages to your cell phone. These messages tend to be about how they can help you buy or sell property. There have recently been several class action lawsuits filed against brokerages for do-not-call/auto dialing violations.

The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits a brokerage from using an auto-dialing system. Brokerages can easily violate the law even when the calls are ultimately transferred to a live agent.

The TCPA prohibits:

  • Prerecorded voice messages to landlines.
  • Prerecorded voice messages to mobile phones without consent.
  • Auto-dialed calls, and text messages to mobile phones without consent.

Have no fear – there is something you can do to prevent these. First of all, make sure your numbers are registered with the Do Not Call Registry. Click here to do that. Then, if you continue to get such calls or texts you can report them. The caller will be fined and the calls/texts should stop.

Damages can be substantial: $500 for each call placed negligently and $1500 for each call placed willfully. Although this seems like small change to a big brokerage, the total claims can rise quickly since damages are uncapped and per call, and importantly, multiplied by the number of calls for each class action plaintiff.

In order to report a violation you need to wait 31 days after you register your number. There are also some types of organizations that are allowed to call you without penalty, such as debt collectors , charities, political organizations and telephone surveyors. To see the list you can look on the website. To report a violation click here. We all need to be vigilant if we do not want to be bothered by unsolicited calls and texts.

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Why NOW is the Time to Sell Your Home

October 17th, 2017

Many people have been on the fence about selling this past year, due to the fact that inventory is low and they are concerned they may not find replacement housing right away – I personally have been assisting multiple sellers with such concerns. That of course keeps the inventory stagnant and prices high – a perpetual Catch-22. However, there are some conditions that make the market right now the BEST time for sellers to sell…so if you are considering selling, consider the following:

Inventory is still low and prices high. Normally at this time we should see a 6 month inventory supply, but there is only a 4.2 month supply on the market according to the National Association of Realtors (this number has even dropped since this time last year). Although we have seen homes dropping prices quite often in the last few months here in San Diego County, as well as longer market times, it is still a great time to get the best price for the sale of your home as long as you are realistic. Homes that are not priced far above comparable value and offer positive qualities can still sell at strong (higher than average) prices. But this may not be the case as we head toward the end of the year and into the next year, depending on several factors.

Buyer Demand is Higher. Compared to this time last year, buyer demand for homes is higher. Historically low interest rates and sustained job creation fuel the demand, but inventory levels prevent many from finding the right home. How long these buyers will remain in the market is hard to say, but many have decided to rent because they could not find homes, thus taking them off the market for at least a year in most cases.

Natural Disasters Will Help Fuel Buyer Demand. Due to the recent wave of hurricanes in the south many homeowners have been displaced and may soon join the ranks of buyers in other areas, making the demand even higher, OR they could become renters and take rental inventory off many markets – causing purchases to become the only option for many looking for places to live. There is a possibility this could push prices up in some areas.

Proposed Tax Changes Could Effect Demand. There are several proposed tax changes that could effect the buyer demand levels, including changes to real estate deductions. If this happens there is the possibility that sellers may elect to stay rather than move up (to save money), OR buyers may decide to rent to avoid higher tax bills. This remains to be seen but it is something to consider.

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If you are considering selling it is important to get an idea of what is going on in your specific market area. Talk to a real estate area professional and crunch the numbers. As always, the real estate market will fluctuate with the ebb and flow of many factors, but if you want to get a high price for your home now is a great time to do your research and prepare to sell.

 

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How the New Tax Reform Could Effect Real Estate

September 28th, 2017

If you own a home or are thinking about purchasing one, you need to be aware of how the new proposed tax reforms could effect you and the effect they may have on the real estate market. Here are some of the proposed changes:

Tax Increases/Doubling of the Standard Deduction. Taxes could increase for hundreds of thousands of California homeowners, and this will hit the middle class hard. It would also put homeownership out of reach for many buyers.

Recently the National Association of Realtors stated that increasing the standard deduction and erasing others would “effectively nullify the current tax benefits of owning a home” for the majority of people. This could reduce housing demand and home values.

Elimination of State and Local Tax Deductions. These deductions make home ownership more affordable. This could include property taxes, and if implemented homeowners could see a rise of up to $3000 annually, leading to plummeting home values. Potential buyers may not be able to afford property tax increases, pushing them into lower price ranges. Homeowner equity would suffer.

If these new tax laws are implemented it will be a big hit to the housing market, with home purchases slowing  or even grinding to a halt; more importantly, we could face large foreclosures waves heading into the future, which of course could have big implications for the mortgage and banking industries.

Hopefully we will soon see some clarification regarding these proposed changes. Write your Congressional representatives and express your views on the new tax laws. Unless you exist in the 1% of the uber-wealthy you will not likely benefit from the expected changes.

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Why Flat Fee Brokerages May Not Benefit Sellers

September 20th, 2017

Flat fee brokerages have been around for a long time, and recently there have been a few additions to the real estate flat fee brokerage world. For those who do not know about these companies, they attract home sellers by promising to list homes for a set fee that is lower than what the average real estate agent will charge for the same work. This sounds great right? Many sellers agree and sign listing agreements excitedly, without considering the facts.

Here are some reasons to truly investigate flat fee brokerages prior to signing on the dotted line:


1.Service. There are new flat fee brokerages out there that promise to provide the same great service as traditional agents who charge more commission to do the same work. Make sure you understand what you are getting for the price you pay.

Flat fee agents tend to have a LOT of listings. I know from much personal experience that one listing alone requires a lot of my attention and availability. Personally servicing multiple listings will jeopardize service.

Also keep in mind that flat fee agents do not get paid much per listing – they make up for that in volume. Will that lead to lack of attention to your listing? You need to figure that out.

2. Paperwork. Many flat fee brokerages charge such low fees because they do not actually handle paperwork or showings. There are those who promise full service, but MAKE SURE you get an explanation of exactly what that means – if you have it in writing and the agent cannot deliver you should be able to fire him or her (see number 3).

3. Check the contract thoroughly. Many flat fee brokerages have clauses in their contracts that sellers may not understand, such as agreements to purchase replacement property only with the brokerage (remember, flat fee brokers make more money from buyer sales than from listings since they get paid full commissions for those), to only use affiliated mortgage companies, or to forfeit money if you cancel the contract. Be careful and make sure you fully understand what you are signing. It is also very important to make sure that you can fire your agent/brokerage if you are not satisfied – at any time – without being penalized or trapped in a contract. If you need help deciphering these contracts, seek legal counsel.

4. Check the brokerage client satisfaction history. It is always important to check testimonials and stories from clients who have used the services of any broker. Spend time researching not only the broker’s own site and third party sites (like Zillow or Yelp), but also check news stories online. You may be surprised at some of the negative press you find on the brokerage.

5. Legalities. Keep in mind that selling a home is a legal transaction – if you do not have someone to guide you it could be dangerous. In order to avoid being sued it is always a smart idea to work with a real estate agent who can help you with paperwork and deadlines, as there are many of both in every real estate transaction. Not to mention, brokerages have insurance to protect against many issues that may arise, IF they were representing you. Flat fee brokerages that just list your home on the MLS and have you do all the work may set up situations that are ripe for breaches of contract and non-disclosure issues, among others. Make sure you have someone guiding through the sales process, or hire an attorney to look over all your paperwork.

There are some new flat fee brokerages out there that are trying to change the way the flat fee business is handled by promising stellar service. This is a great intention, but if you are a seller make sure that you understand the contract you sign, as well as your rights. You may want to speak with traditional agents to compare services.

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The bottom line is that commissions are not set in stone, but you do get what you pay for in most cases so make sure you understand to what services you are entitled for what you are paying. If you are not happy, you should be able to fire the agent.

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