How the tax bill potentially will affect homeowners

This past weekend, the GOP passed its tax plan along party lines, despite heavy opposition against it in CA. I was wondering how the new plan might affect homeowners, and my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending had the perfect answer. See his summary below!

The bill has a provision to cap the mortgage interest deduction to loan amounts of $500,000 or less. To be clear, borrowers will not be ineligible for the mortgage interest deduction if they owe more than $500,000; borrowers will only be able to deduct interest that accrues against $500,000 of their mortgage, no matter how large it is. Here are some observations:

1. Only 5% of all mortgages are over $500,000. And the vast majority of them are in California. Hence, it is unlikely that we Californians will get a lot of sympathy from middle America. But this also explains why there is so much concern in California.

2. How much will it actually hurt borrowers? For a $1 million home (not a lot in coastal California) with 20% down, a borrower will have an $800,000 mortgage. This means that $300,000 of that debt will be ineligible for the mortgage interest tax deduction. If the interest rate is 4%, the borrower will not be able to deduct $12,000 of interest from his or her income for tax purposes. If that same borrower is in a 40.5% combined tax bracket (33% Federal, and 7.5% State), he or she will lose $4,860 in direct tax savings. That is real money for anyone.

3. Current borrowers will be grandfathered, meaning they will be able to continue to deduct interest against a $1 million mortgage (or $1.1 million if they have an equity line). This provision will likely hurt inventory, as this will create another disincentive to sell. 

4. Standard Deduction Doubling: This is the bigger issue for real estate in general, as most lenders and Realtors aggressively sell the tax benefits from buying a house. If the Standard Deduction for married couples doubles to $24,000, most taxpayers will not be eligible to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction (it would only make sense if their mortgage interest and other itemized items exceeded $24,000; a $500,000 loan at 4% would only accrue $20,000 of interest). 

5. The real estate lobby is extremely powerful. This is the biggest factor of all. The real estate lobby (that includes builders) is exceptionally powerful, and most of the lobby is opposed to the above-referenced provisions.

I always find Jay’s perspectives insightful with helpful information. Jay wrote this prior to the bill being passed by the Senate. Now that it has been passed, here are a few of my own observations:

  1.  There is a lot of jockeying of blame between the two parties (status quo).
  2.  If it was so negative, why did the Senate Bill get passed so quickly?
  3. The Senate and House will now go back and forth on all the details to get final approval before it goes to President Trump. Changes can still be made or it could possibly fall apart.
  4. Back to Jay’s last point – there is a very strong lobby that still can push change.
  5. I see this continues creating a disincentive for people to sell. It used to be that on average people moved every 7 years; that number has now increased to approximately every 20 years, thus the continued low inventory.

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10 ways to improve your credit score

10 credit 2Last Tuesday, we wrote about how important it is to have high credit scores to purchase a home. Today, we’ll outline a summary of the main points from this list of 10 ways to improve your credit score from Inman.com.

If your score is lower than you’d like, these are good suggestions for how to help hike it back up, especially if you’re thinking about buying a new home:

1. Always pay on time

No lender likes to lend money to an individual who has a repeated record of missing his or her payments. Not to mention it will end up with a lower FICO score.

2. Keep your credit owed within limits

A good ratio is not having your unsecured credit outstanding above 50 percent of your annual salary. If you have $10,000 as your limit, then it is wise to restrict your statement amount to $5,000.

3. Always pay your bills on time, in full

This is one of the most important tips to improve credit score: On-time payments improve your credit score tremendously.

10 credit 34. Use two credit cards if you are a definite credit card spender

This is good and bad advice at the same time. FICO does not consider spending money on two credit cards as one. But if you have two credit cards, you can keep your usage percentage in control.

5. Maintain a good mix of good and bad loans — AKA, a healthy credit mix

Home loans and business loans are considered good loans. Personal loans and credit are considered bad loans.

6. Pay high-interest loans and small loans first

It is a prudent decision to pay your home loans over longer periods. Pay off your personal loans, credit cards and private loans first, as they tend to have a higher interest. Home loans, on the other hand, are just 9 percent to 11 percent, but they build an asset.

7. Close your unwanted savings accounts

Many people tend to abandon their savings accounts without closing them. If you have less than your Minimum Average Balance (MAB), it will start to affect your credit score. Also, when you finish a loan, it’s imperative to get the loan closure certificate.

10 credit 18. Check your credit reports regularly

Credit reports can be availed for a minimal cost. You can obtain them from the official FICO site. Just pay online and check your credit score at least once in a year, so that you can seek clarification on any mistake and have it sorted.

9. Monitor your co-signed joint accounts properly

In instances of co-signing a loan or maintaining a joint credit account, be careful when dealing with someone outside your close family.

10. Negotiate if you cannot pay on time

People often know that they would not be able to pay their bills in advance. If you know you will not be able to pay on time, negotiate with your bank. Banks will be willing to extend your loan period and reduce the EMI if they see a genuine customer.