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By Deanna Lawley With just a month left in 2012, the number of days to benefit from year-end home buying tax benefits is dwindling quickly. We consulted real estate experts from across the country to share what you need to know when preparing to close before December 31, 2012. 1.) End of year tax benefits: If you are considering buying a home in the near future, capitalize on the remaining weeks of 2012. Purchasing your home before year-end will make you eligible for the following 2012 tax benefits: • Mortgage interest deduction: If you itemize your tax return (which you should do if your itemized deductions are greater than the standard deduction), then you can deduct the interest payments made during 2012 on your mortgage. Interest is deductible on the first one million dollars of debt, according to Ryan Himmel, CEO, BIDaWIZ. Please note: If you purchase at the end of the year, your deduction won't be as large as it will be in 2013, since you'll only have a month or two of mortgage interest payments paid. • Mortgage insurance premium: If your down payment is less than 20 percent and requires private mortgage insurance (PMI), the interest on those payments may be eligible for a deduction. This deduction only applies if your adjusted gross income is less than $100,000 (if your income exceeds $100,000, 10 percent of the PMI deduction is reduced for every $1,000 over the adjusted gross income limit. This means that the tax deduction completely phases out at $109,000), said Himmel. • Mortgage points: If you decide to pay points on your loan (typically 1 percent of the loan for each point) it is fully deductible in the year it is paid. This can be a significant deduction on homes with loans over $500,000, according to Himmel. "Even though we typically see fewer inventories at the end of the year, many homeowners are more motivated to sell in order to take advantage of these end-of-year tax breaks. Low rates, a still-recovering market and seller motivation make it a great time to buy a home for those who are able to do so," says Patrick Ruffner, vice president of mortgage lending, Guaranteed Rate . "At this point in the year, sellers generally have an understanding of how their tax bills will be affected and they tend to be motivated to sell before year-end so as not to face tax uncertainty, such as future rates potentially increasing or current deductions being eliminated." 2.) Record low interest rates: The elephant in the room right now is of course, interest rates. At record levels for months now, the question is….will they go up in 2013? While we don't know how the recent election or the "Fiscal Cliff" might impact interest rates, according to Ruffner, we do know that, "For those in a position to buy a home, rates are at historic lows and they have been for much of this year. Buying now ensures against future rates potentially increasing or current deductions being eliminated." 3.) Down payment funding: When considering where to get down payment cash, stocks and mutual funds may be a good answer. Cashing those out before the end of the year is key, as capital gains taxes are anticipated to rise from 15 percent to 20 percent in 2013. The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Jobs Creation Act of 2010 extends the Bush-era tax cuts until the end of 2012. Beginning January 1, 2013, the tax rate will revert from the current 15 percent rate back to the former 20 percent capital gain tax rate that was in effect prior to 2003. 4.) Looking ahead – the 2013 housing industry forecast: If buying a home before the end of the year is not feasible for you, the 2013 housing outlook may still offer some exciting opportunities: Andrew Schrage, CEO, doesn't expect the industry to see a "rebirth," he anticipates the industry to continue to recover, albeit not rapidly. It will take much longer to escape the housing market debacle than it did to get in it. The recovery will take place at different levels in different regions of the country. Although home values decreased across the board when the housing market collapsed, certain areas were hit harder than others, so these markets may face an even longer road to full recovery. Schrage also says, "The housing market is set to stay on track, with modest progress in most regions. Inventories are down in many markets, which drives up home values. Until there are a larger number of homes available on the market, these values should remain fairly consistent, and may improve. Projections indicate an increase of home values in the 2 percent range next year." So that means, there will still be good homes at good prices available, but may cost you a little more to get them. So if you can, buy now!

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