3.8% Tax | Whats True, Whats Not

Realtor Mag — Official Magazine of the National Association of Realtors | Robert Freedman, September 2012
Ever since health care reform was enacted into law more than two years ago, rumors have been circulating on the Internet and in e-mails that the law contains a 3.8% tax on real estate. NAR (National Association of Realtors) quickly released material to show that the tax doesn’t target real estate and will in fact affect very few home sales, because it’s a tax that will only affect high-income households that realize a substantial gain on an asset sale, including on a home sale, once other factors are taken into account. Maybe 2-3% of home sellers will be affected.
Nevertheless, the rumors persist and the latest version that’s circulating falsely say NAR is advocating for the tax’s repeal. But while NAR doesn’t support the tax (it was added into the health care law at the last minute and never considered in hearings), it’s not advocating for its repeal at this time.
The characterization of the 3.8% tax as a tax on real estate is an example of an Internet rumor, says Heather Elias, NAR’s director of social business media. Elias and Linda Goold, NAR’s director of tax policy, sat down for a discussion of how the tax works and how Internet rumors work.
Goold says the tax will affect few home sellers because so many different pieces must fall into place a certain way for the tax to apply. First, any home sale gain must be more than the $250,000-$500,000 capital gains exclusion that’s in effect today. That’s gain, not sales amount, so you really have to reap a substantial amount for the tax to even come into play. Very few people are walking away with a gain of more than half a million dollars today, even in the high-end home market, so right off the bat only a few home sellers would be a candidate for the tax.
For the few households that do see a gain of more than the $250,000-$500,000 exclusion (that’s $250,000 for single filers and $500,000 for joint filers), only the amount above the exclusion would be factored into the tax calculation, and that would still only apply to high-income households, which the law defines as single people earning $200,000 a year and joint filers earning $250,000 a year.
So, if you are a household with an annual income of $250,000 or more and you earn a gain of more than $500,000 on your house (again, that’s after the $500,000 exclusion), any amount of gain above the exclusion would be plugged into a formula to see if it’s taxable. If it turns out that it’s taxable, then the amount could be subject to the 3.8% tax. If the household had a gain of more than $500,000 but only earned $249,000 a year in income, the tax wouldn’t apply.
(Note that these are just hypothetical examples. To know if a case would really be subject to the tax, a professional tax preparer or tax attorney has to look at all the particulars of the tax filer’s case. Only a tax professional is in a position to say the tax is applicable, but the examples cited here could help you get a sense of how the tax works.)
The other thing about the tax worth noting is that, although it takes effect in 2013, any impact on taxes wouldn’t happen until 2014. That’s because the tax filer would do the calculation in 2014 for the 2013 tax year. Because it’s not a tax on a real estate sale but rather on a capital gain, it’s not calculated at the time of an asset sale, whether that asset is a house or something else. It’s calculated at the time the filer figures his or her tax.
Rumors about the 3.8% Medicare tax continue to circulate. Here’s the definitive word on what’s true
and what’s not on how the tax impacts real estate.

Go Green and Increase Your Property Value

Go Green and Increase Your Property Value

By Andrew Hill @ http://newhomes.move.com/

Everyone has felt the harsh realities of the nation’s recession and that goes for your home as well. We all know that home prices are at record lows, but they don’t have to stay that way. If you’re looking to sell your home, or if you are simply environmentally conscious, green home options are a great solution to your problems.

More than ever, home buyers are concerned with how green their new home will be. If you’re on the selling end of the transaction, this means it’s time to make some simple renovations. While installing hundreds of solar panels may be a built unrealistic, there are many ways to significantly reduce your consumption and make your home stand out!

One of the best ways to reduce your energy excesses is to repair your insulation systems. Although you can replace your insulation and HVAC with green-certified products, buying caulk, weather stripping, and new air filters are also very effective ways to reduce your electricity use. Experts recommend you change your air filters once a month. By inspecting the places where your doors and windows meet the walls you will quickly find where that weather stripping and caulk need to be applied. If you make these adjustments, you should see your utility bills drop in no time!

Two of the most common ways to go green include adjusting your other major utility contributors: water and lighting. As for the water consumption, you can easily replace those old sink and shower heads with low flow alternatives. These still deliver the pressure you want, while significantly reducing your usage of excess water. And as for the lights, incandescent bulbs are on the way out. CFLs are a fantastic alternative thanks to their reduced energy usage and considerably longer lifetime.

There are a variety of other green home solutions as well. Attics are often a key contributor to heating and cooling problems. This is most often due to inadequate insulation. Be sure to have this checked and have your insulation reinforced by a sufficient amount of “green” insulation. Likewise, windows that are poor insulators should be replaced with alternatives that are more efficient at temperature regulation.

Another thing to remember is that not all green improvements revolve around energy efficiency. Having asbestos removed or opting to paint with non-toxic alternatives are also fantastic green home options. What’s more, many of these green features can raise your home value by as much as 10%! For more tips and guidance on your green real estate ventures, be sure to contact Jane Wallace, today.

Are You Planning For Your Retirement?

Americans 60+ are needing to adjust spending and to review their longer term retirement plan.

How Are You Planning for Your Retirement?

Is Your Home too Expensive to Maintain Throughout Your Retirement?

Stretch your Retirement Income by Moving…

  • Move to a Lower Cost Area
  • Move to a Smaller Home | Downsize

Heather Gardens, An Active Adult Community in Aurora Colorado is Resort Style Living For Adults 39+ At An Affordable Price.

Heather Gardens is an age-restricted community of active, independent adults. It is located in the southeast Denver metro area less than a mile from I-225, RTD’s Nine-Mile light rail station, and Cherry Creek State Park and reservoir.

The community is an established, neighborly and secure urban enclave located on 200 park-like acres enhanced by the community’s golf course.

Homeowners enjoy a carefree, maintenance-free lifestyle. There is a variety of zero-maintenance, worry-free home ownership choices in a wide price range, from condos with views of the Rockies to townhomes and patio homes.

Heather Gardens offers over 100 leisure activities, clubs and classes to its residents, providing opportunities for personal growth and social interaction.

Use the Proceeds from the Sale of Your Home to Purchase Using a Reverse Mortgage and Never Make a Payment

Heather Ridge Golf Course

Selling Your House? Waiting May Not Make Sense

There have been some bright spots in the residential real estate market over the last couple of months. Several price indices have reported a stabilization of prices and some regions have even shown small levels of appreciation. This has led some to believe that we may have reached a bottom for home values. We must realize that what we are actually experiencing is a ‘window of opportunity’ as the banks are delayed in bringing certain inventories of distressed properties to the market. Let’s look at what others are reporting:

Bloomberg Businessweek

“The crux of Simon’s analysis is that the loose lending practices seen during the housing bubble allowed 5 million renters to become homeowners, and that the market is in the protracted process of evicting this group. He believes housing prices will decline 6 percent to 8 percent nationally, with 6 million to 7 million more foreclosures yet to come.”

Yahoo Finance

“The problem with the real estate market remains excess inventory. Based on Shilling’s research, there are 2 million to 2.5 million excess homes in the country — a supply that will take 4-5 years to work-off. The result: Housing prices will fall another 20% and underwater mortgages will balloon from 23% to 40%, he says.”

Housing Wire

Both warmer weather and the drop in distressed sales percentage have contributed to recent home price improvements. However, given the disappointing pace in housing demand recovery, both factors may turn against us in the coming winter and push home prices lower again…

This supply-demand imbalance affirmed JPMorgan analysts’ estimate of a further 4% drop in home prices from the first quarter of 2011 to a new bottom next year.”

DS News

“Home prices have gotten a little bit of a boost in recent months thanks to a seasonal uptick in market activity. Most analysts, however, expect further declines to characterize the later part of the year and possibly extend into next year, largely because of the huge supply of foreclosures on the market.”

Bottom Line

If you are thinking of selling in the next twelve months, you would probably do much better if you sold your house sooner rather than later.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFERS ADDITIONAL MORTGAGE RELIEF TO UNEMPLOYED HOMEOWNERS

Adjustments to FHA and MHA requirements to allow 12-month Forbearances

(Washington, DC)-Today, the Obama Administration announced adjustments to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requirements that will require servicers to extend the forbearance period for unemployed homeowners to 12 months. The Administration also intends to require servicers participating in the Making Home Affordable Program (MHA) to extend the minimum forbearance period to 12 months wherever possible under regulator and investor guidelines. These adjustments will provide much needed assistance for unemployed homeowners trying to stay in their homes while seeking re-employment. These changes are intended to set a standard for the mortgage industry to provide more robust assistance to unemployed homeowners in the economic downturn.

The changes to FHA’s Special Forbearance Program announced today will require servicers to extend the forbearance period for FHA borrowers who qualify for the program from four months to 12 months and remove upfront hurdles to make it easier for unemployed borrowers to qualify.

“The current unemployment forbearance programs have mandatory periods that are inadequate for the majority of unemployed borrowers,” U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said. “Today, 60 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than three months and 45 percent have been out of work for more than six. Providing the option for a year of forbearance will give struggling homeowners a substantially greater chance of finding employment before they lose their home.”

Changes to MHA’s Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP) will require participating servicers to extend the minimum forbearance period from 3 months to 12 months for eligible unemployed homeowners, whenever possible subject to investor and regulator guidance for each mortgage loan. Additionally, forbearance under UP will become available to borrowers who are seriously delinquent.

All FHA-approved servicers must participate in FHA’s Loss Mitigation Program, which includes the Special Forbearance program. In addition to extending the forbearance period and removing the up-front hurdles for borrowers, the FHA also reemphasized its requirement that servicers conduct a review at the end of the forbearance period to evaluate the borrower for all additional, applicable foreclosure assistance programs and notify the borrower in writing whether or not he/she qualifies for any other available option. If the borrower does not qualify for any foreclosure assistance option, the servicer must provide the borrower with the reason for denial and allow the borrower at least seven calendar days to submit additional information that may impact the servicer’s evaluation.

These reforms build on successful Administration initiatives to support unemployed borrowers through the $7.6 billion Hardest Hit Fund and the $1 billion Emergency Homeowner Loan Program (EHLP). The Hardest Hit Fund, first announced in February 2010, provides support to 18 states and the District of Columbia, which represent the areas hardest hit by steep home price declines and unemployment, to design and implement programs to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. Participating states have dedicated approximately seventy percent of program funds toward programs to help homeowners struggling with unemployment or underemployment. As of this month, each participating state is accepting applications from borrowers and providing direct mortgage assistance to those that qualify.

The EHLP program complements the Hardest Hit Fund, by serving the remaining 32 states and Puerto Rico. Congress provided $1 billion dollars to HUD, as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, to implement the recently launched program. EHLP assists homeowners who have experienced a reduction in income and are at risk of foreclosure due to involuntary unemployment, underemployment due to economic conditions or a medical condition. EHLP is expected to aid up to 30,000 distressed borrowers, with an average loan of approximately $35,000.

Read a fact sheet about today’s announcement.

Even the Naysayers Are Saying To Buy Now!

Business School professors Eli Beracha of East Carolina University and Ken H. Johnson of Florida International University have done extensive research on which makes more sense financially: to rent or own a home. They published, Lessons from Over 30 Years of Buy versus Rent Decisions: Is the American Dream Always Wise? In their paper, the professors do not dispute the social benefits of homeownership:

“Home ownership is touted as the “American Dream”. It is credited with enhancing wealth, increasing civic pride, improving self-esteem, crime prevention, child development, and better educational outcomes, among other benefits. This paper does not dispute any of these claims.”

What the professors were proposing is that homeownership is not a better investment strategy than renting. The first of the two major findings was:

“After setting the holding period to the average American’s tenure in a residence, renting (not buying) proves to be the superior investment strategy over most of the study period… Individuals, on average, were better off in economic terms to have rented for most of the years in the study period. This first result is strongly dependent upon fiscally disciplined individuals that, without fail, reinvest any residual savings from renting.”

Historically, people do not actually reinvest savings “without fail”.  Check here for the findings of a recent study from The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard.

The second major finding says it all. According to both professors Beracha and Johnson, NOW IS THE TIME TO BUY!

“(F)undamental drivers now appear to be in place that favor homeownership over renting in the near term future…

The second finding might seem unwise to many given the recent crash in the real estate markets around the country. However, rent-to-price ratios now seem to be in place along with other fundamental drivers that favor ownership over renting.”

They conclude their research paper with this sentence:

“Conditions (historically low mortgage rates and relatively low rent-to-price ratios) now seem in place to favor future purchases.”

Bottom Line

Two researchers set out to prove that homeownership is not a good financial decision. After completing that research, they have determined that now is the time to buy. What more needs to be said?

Abestos in the Home

Located on the Western and Southwestern regions of the United States, Colorado provides a great environment for active lifestyles and is regarded as one of the top states to call home. With the city of Denver’s beautiful landscapes, its proximity to Rocky Mountains and snow filled fun; it is no secret why it has become one of the great living destinations in the country.

Purchasing a home can be filled with excitement and anticipation for homeowners. It can also be a time where additional responsibilities are acquired. Having the assistance of a reliable and honest Denver real estate agent will make all the difference in when buying a home. One of the many things that can go unnoticed is taking precautions against obsolete and toxic building materials which may still be present in homes.

Citizens of Colorado are pushing for continued use of new green, eco-friendly technologies. Green construction brings together many techniques which aim to reduce or eliminate the impacts in which physical structures have on the environment and health, especially when remodeling or re mediating older homes.

Asbestos

Used throughout the 20th century to insulate pipes, boilers and in roofing, asbestos gained recognition due to its resistance to heat and electrical conductivity. Homes built before 1980 should be aware that older homes may still harbor asbestos materials. In most situations, asbestos appears in roof shingles, dry wall, attic insulation, popcorn ceilings, joint compounds and electrical wires.

If asbestos is located, it must be left un-touched until a professional can provide a course of action. In many situations, the best action is no action. Asbestos that is disturbed or damaged due to age is known as “friable” asbestos. This is a concern because its toxic fibers can easily circulate and become inhaled. If asbestos removal is recommended, it should be performed by a licensed abatement contractor who is trained in handling asbestos materials. They must wear protective equipment such as masks and gloves to avoid any exposure.

Asbestos fibers are thin and strong, and when inhaled frequently, an individual can develop mesothelioma, a rare but severe lung ailment caused by asbestos exposure. Symptoms may not show up from 20 to 50 years after exposure. Manufacturers of asbestos obtained medical evidence of its corrosive qualities but continued shipping the substance anyways, leaving workers and homeowners exposed on a frequent basis. Thousands have fought this by attempting to receive mesothelioma compensation for their wrongful illness.

Green Homes in Denver

Green building is the consequence of a design that will increase energy efficiency, water and have a direct impact on your health and the environment. Implementing green methods of building can have positive environmental, health and economic benefits. These include: Conservation of natural resources, enhancement of air quality, energy sustainability, increase property value, improve quality of life, improvement of pulmonary/cardiac health and reduction of waste.

Organizations such as Environment Colorado help bring together programs and projects that are helping make the state become a more sustainable and environmentally friendly city. In Denver, construction practices are upgrading methods to suit better lighting, heating, cooling systems and environmentally habitable insulation.

Green options such as cotton fiber, cellulose and lcynene should be given consideration as replacements to asbestos. Cotton fiber is quickly becoming a favorite for home builders and renovators. Made from recycled batted material, it is also treated to be fireproof. Research has demonstrated that the use of Eco-friendly insulation alternatives can reduce annual energy costs by 25 percent.

Mesothelioma Prognosis is a great resource which covers all aspects of the horrible disease including the causes, diagnosis, and prognosis.

Lead Paint Test Kits: Cheap & Easy to Use

Health risks associated with lead-based paint in pre-1978 homes prompted a flood of DIY lead paint test kits. Many are accurate and simple to use.

Lead paint testing basics

  • Test any area of your house you plan to renovate. Pick a spot and carefully scrape away individual layers of paint so you can check every layer.
  • Test kits show results with changes to the color of the test strip or swab. If you’re color blind, be sure to have a friend confirm the results.
  • Test kits get results using either one of two chemicals–rhodizonate or sodium sulfide. For the most accurate reading, get a kit of each type.

Kits suggested by the EPA

Due to some false negatives and false positives yielded by some kits during accuracy tests by the EPA, the agency recognizes only two DIY lead paint test kits that are available to home owners. In addition to judging these kits for accuracy, the EPA also looked for kits that were easy to use, produced rapid results, and were low-cost.

LeadCheck. Although you can use this kit to test a variety of surfaces for lead, the EPA recognizes it for its accuracy in testing wood and ferrous metal (alloys that contain iron).

Swab the surface to determine the presence of lead in just 30 seconds. If the swab tip turns pink or red, the test is positive for lead. No color indicates the absence of lead. Available at hardware stores or directly from the manufacturer, Hybrivet Systems, Inc (508/652-7881); the kit comes with eight swabs and costs about $25.

D-Lead. The EPA recognizes this kit for accuracy in testing wood, ferrous metal, drywall, and plaster surfaces for lead. In this kit, you collect a sample and add a pair of solutions for testing. If lead is present in the sample, the solution color changes in less than 13 minutes.

A kit containing six tests costs $35.

Other easy-to-use kits

In recent tests, Consumer Reports rated these kits as “Easy to Use:”

Radon Gas Mitigation: Let’s Breathe Easy

Take steps immediately to reduce radon gas buildup if your home tests high. Knowing the available radon mitigation methods and costs will help you make the best choice.

Reducing radon: Simple strategies

If radon test results indicate that levels in your home are only slightly elevated–less than 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air):

  • Caulk cracks or gaps in the slab, foundation, or framing–wherever your home contacts soil–to inhibit radon gas infiltration. This step also improves the success of other radon reduction strategies.
  • Open exterior crawl space vents to increase air flow and dilute radon buildup.
  • Install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). An HVR introduces fresh, air-conditioned air into homes that are otherwise tightly sealed.

Reducing radon from unsafe levels

If radon levels inside your home test at 4 pCi/L or higher, enlist the services of a professional contractor who is trained in radon mitigation strategies. Contact your state radon office for a list of contractors in your area who are trained and certified in radon reduction techniques. Obtain several bids.

Professional radon mitigation options

Some of the systems used for reducing radon are:

  • Soil suction. A special vent fan draws radon from soil beneath your home through pipes that dispel gas into the open. Negative pressure created by the suction further inhibits the buildup of gas. Fans run 24/7, and are usually guaranteed for up to 10 years of continual operation.
  • Sub-membrane suction. Considered the most effective strategy for homes with crawl spaces, sub-membrane suction employs a high-density plastic sheet atop the soil. A fan draws radon gas out through vent pipes located beneath the plastic.
  • Passive and active ventilation. Ventilating a crawl space or adding additional vents may also reduce radon gas. Opening vents is passive ventilation; adding a fan is active. When employing either of these methods in a colder climate, you may need to add insulation in a crawl space to prevent pipes from freezing.

Costs for radon mitigation

Prices for radon mitigation vary depending on the extent of the work being done, but range between $800 and $2,500. The average cost nationally is $1,200 to $1,400.

As a rule, a house built on a slab or with a basement requires less labor, resulting in the lowest costs for radon reduction. Radon reduction in a house over a crawl space tends to be most expensive since a vapor barrier may be required.

Homes with any combination of slab, crawl space, and/or a basement fall in the middle range for costs.

Another budget consideration: As you ventilate radon gas from your home, energy costs increase—either from releasing air that’s been heated or cooled, or from you operating a fan full-time. Using an HRV to ventilate helps reduce waste.