Date Archives: February 2011

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February
23

By: G. M. Filisko

You've found your dream home. Make sure missteps don't prevent a successful closing.

If a contract requires you to have a home inspection, schedule an appointment immediately.

A home purchase isn't complete until you make it to the closing.  Here are five tips for avoiding mistakes that cause a home sale to crater.

1. Be truthful on your mortgage application

You may think fudging your income a little or omitting debts when applying for a mortgage will go unnoticed. Not true. Lenders will diligently verify information on mortgage applications. If you fib, expect to be found out and denied the loan you need to fund your home purchase. Plus, intentionally lying on a mortgage application is a crime.

2. Hold off on big purchases

Lenders double-check buyers' credit right before the closing to be sure their financial condition hasn't weakened. If you've opened new credit cards, significantly increased the balance on existing cards, taken out new loans, or depleted your savings, your credit score may have dropped enough so you may no longer qualify due to these actions.

Although it's tempting to purchase new furniture and other items for your new home, or even a new car, wait until after the closing.

3. Keep your job

Due to underwriting guidelines your lender may be unable to fund your loan if you quit or change jobs before you close the purchase. The time to take either step is after a home closing, not before.

 
4. Meet contingencies

If your contract requires you to do something before the sale, do it. If you're required to secure financing, promptly provide all the information the lender requires. If you must deposit additional funds into escrow, don't stall. If you have 10 days to get a home inspection, call the inspector immediately.

5. Consider deadlines immovable

Get your funds together a week or so before the closing, so you don't have to ask for a delay. If you'll need to bring a certified check to closing, get it from the bank the day before, not the day of, your closing. Treat deadlines as sacrosanct.

February
17

By: G. M. Filisko When you're evaluating how much home you can afford, make sure you factor in the tax advantages of homeownership. You can claim some tax deductions if you work from home, but be sure you're entitled to them before taking them. Owning your home not only allows you to build wealth through appreciation, but it can also reduce the amount of income tax you pay every year. Here are seven tax benefits for homeowners. 1. Homebuyer tax credits If you purchase your first home before April 30, 2010, you're entitled to a tax credit of up to $8,000. If you currently own a home, but sell it to purchase another home before April 30, 2010, you're eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $6,500. 2. Deductions for loan fees Typically, you can deduct the "prepaid interest" you paid when you got your mortgage loan. That includes points, loan origination fees, and loan discount fees listed on your settlement statement, even if the seller paid those fees for you. Each time you refinance your home, you can deduct prepaid interest fees. However, you must meet certain requirements to take the prepaid interest deductions when you purchase or refinance your home. Check with your accountant to be sure you're following the rules. 3. Property tax deductions In the year you purchase your home, you're entitled to deduct the real estate taxes you paid at the closing table. You can continue to deduct the property taxes you pay each year. 4. The mortgage interest deduction Every year, you can deduct the amount of interest and late charges you pay on your mortgage and home equity loans, though there are limitations. If you're required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) because you made a downpayment of less than 20% on your home, you can also deduct those premiums as mortgage interest expenses. 5. Home office expenses If you have a home office you use only for business, you may be eligible to deduct the prorated costs of your mortgage, insurance, and other expenses related to that space. The government scrutinizes home-office deductions closely. Be sure you're entitled to the deductions before claiming them. 6. The costs of selling your home In the year you sell your home, you can deduct the costs of selling it, including real estate commissions, title insurance, legal fees, advertising, administrative costs, and inspection fees. You can also deduct decorating or repair costs you incur in the 90 days before you sell your home. 7. The gain on your home If you lived in your home for at least two of the previous five years before you sell it, the government lets you to take up to $250,000 of profit on the sale of your home tax free. That amount is doubled for married couples. This deduction isn't available on rental or second homes. The government also allows you to subtract from your home sale profit any amounts you spend on improvements, such as window replacement, siding, or a kitchen remodel. Those deductions are in addition to the tax credits you can receive in 2010 for making energy-saving upgrades. Money invested for routine maintenance and repairs doesn't count. This article includes general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws vary by jurisdiction.
February
15

By: G. M. Filisko Understanding how appraisals work will help you achieve a quick and profitable refinance or sale. If you think the appraisal value of your home is too low, you can seek a second opinion. When you refinance or sell your home, the lender will insist that you get an appraisal-an opinion of the value of your home based on what similar homes in your area have sold for in recent months. Here are five tips about the appraised value of your home. 1. An appraisal isn't an exact science. When appraisers evaluate a home's value, they're giving their best opinion based on how the home's features stack up against those of similar homes recently sold nearby. One appraiser may factor in a recent sale, but another may consider that sale too long ago, or the home too different, or too far away to be a fair comparison. The result can be differences in the values two separate appraisers set for your home. 2. Appraisals have different purposes. If the appraisal is being used by a lender giving a loan on the home, the appraised value will be the lower of market value (what it would sell for on the open market today) and the price you paid for the house if you recently bought it. An appraisal being used to figure out how much to insure your home for or to determine your property taxes may rely on other factors and arrive at different values. For example, though an appraisal for a home loan evaluates today's market value, an appraisal for insurance purposes calculates what it would cost to rebuild your home at today's building material and labor rates, which can result in two different numbers. Appraisals are also different from CMAs, or competitive market analyses. In a CMA, a real estate agent relies on market expertise to estimate how much your home will sell for in a specific time period. The price your home will sell for in 30 days may be different than the price your home will sell for in 120 days. Because real estate agents don't follow the rules appraisers do, there can be variations between CMAs and appraisals on the same home. 3. An appraisal is a snapshot. Home prices shift, and appraised values will shift with those market changes. Your home may be appraised at $150,000 today, but in two months when you refinance or list it for sale, the appraised value could be lower or higher depending on how your market has performed. 4. Appraisals don't factor in your personal issues. You may have a reason you must sell immediately, such as a job loss or transfer, which can affect the amount of money you'll accept to complete the transaction in your time frame. An appraisal doesn't consider those personal factors. 5. You can ask for a second opinion. If your home appraisal comes back at a value you believe is too low, you can request that a second appraisal be performed by a different appraiser. You, or potential buyers, if they've requested the appraisal, will have to pay for the second appraisal. But it may be worth it to keep the sale from collapsing from a faulty appraisal. On the other hand, the appraisal may be accurate, and it may be a sign that you need to adjust your pricing or the size of the loan you're refinancing.
February
1

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