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Watch Out for These Surprises That Can Drive Up the Cost of Buying a Foreclosure Home

July 29, 2019

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Buying a foreclosure home, also known as a distressed property, might seem like a less expensive way to get into your next place. These homes usually sell for about 15% below the home’s actual value. But buying a foreclosure property isn’t always what it seems. While it may look like a bargain, it could end up being more expensive (and more trouble) than it’s worth.

“On the surface, foreclosed homes can seem awfully appealing,” says Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert at Opendoor. “However, costs can be extremely unpredictable, and underlying damages could make a property undesirable.”

With big risks associated with foreclosures, a buyer could end up with a money pit, rather than an affordable new home. That’s why you should always budget for the worst-case scenario.

“It’s better to be pleasantly surprised than to not have the funds to solve the problem,” says Avery Boyce, a real estate agent with Compass Real Estate in Washington, DC.

Here are some of the hidden costs you need to look out for when considering a foreclosure home.

Home repairs

Foreclosures are likely to need some work—and the list of needed repairs and renovations can be long indeed. The worst part is, you might not even have a ballpark estimate of what repairs are needed until you receive the keys.

“The bank will be limited on the disclosures they can provide regarding the condition of the home and previous repairs done,” says de Jong.

In some cases, you can get a home inspection before finalizing the sale, but often, a foreclosed house is sold as is.

“Keep in mind that if the previous owners couldn’t make their mortgage payments, they likely also fell behind on regular maintenance,” de Jong says. “The home may have foundation problems, need a roof replacement, and require a heavy workload to bring the home up to code.”

The property could have also been sitting there, uncared for, for a while. You might have to factor in the additional costs from overgrown lawns, graffiti, weather damage, and more.

Paying too much in a bidding war

Buyers—especially those purchasing a home for the first time—should be careful to not get stuck in an expensive bidding war. Why? They could end up paying too much for a house that they can’t afford to fix.

There can be a lot of competition from other eager buyers, real estate developers, and flippers.

“For damaged homes that are priced well below market value, you will probably be competing with developers who plan to rip out everything anyway, and can afford to solve big unknown problems,” Boyce says.

Steer clear of a bidding war and avoid busting your budget on a home that needs more work than you can afford. Before making an offer, set your upper limit, and stick to that number. There will be other houses later on, and it’s often better to play it safe when it comes to foreclosures.

Challenges in getting funding

Even if you can get a great price on a foreclosure property, many buyers will still need a loan to help them purchase it. Before you make an offer on a foreclosure, don’t bank on being able to get a mortgage.

Some lenders simply won’t offer funding for foreclosure properties. The most common reason: The house is in such bad condition, it can’t pass an inspection.

“To get traditional financing, the home needs to be in really good shape,” Boyce explains. “All the utilities need to be on and testable, there can’t be holes in the drywall or floors, and there can’t be water inside the home.”

Plus, most banks favor all-cash offers on foreclosures because they have already lost money on the property and they don’t want to end up in the same situation again.

If you can’t do all cash upfront, it is likely to help to get pre-approved, and it also helps to be willing to put down 20% or more. This way, at least the bank knows you’re serious about buying the house and paying the mortgage.

No room for negotiation

When buying a home the traditional way, the seller may be willing to negotiate on the price. You submit an offer, the seller might counter, and in the end, you could end up paying less than the asking price.

“Dealing with the bank is a more formal and corporate process than dealing with a seller, so expect limited flexibility, if any, when negotiating on the offer price,” de Jong says. “Banks are not likely to budge on the price, since they are mostly concerned with recouping the costs from their investment.”

However, if you’d like to test the waters, Boyce suggests you ask your agent to search for past sales by the bank to see whether the sale price is lower than the list price.

“That will give you some insight into whether it’s worth submitting a lower offer,” she says.

Property tax increases

If, after learning about all these hidden fees, you’re still seriously considering a foreclosure, you’ll be aware that some properties will need to be overhauled. And while you might be ready to put some serious cash into the project, know that there’s an extra fee associated with a major home makeover: increased property tax. Fixing the house up will increase its value, and in most places, that means your property tax bill will go up.

This may seem like a no-brainer to some seasoned homeowners, but it’s important to remember this tax increase when budgeting for repairs. Don’t get stuck going all in on a home and finding yourself strapped for cash when it’s time to pay taxes.

The post Watch Out for These Surprises That Can Drive Up the Cost of Buying a Foreclosure Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 Tax Breaks That Disappear This Year—and Some Loopholes That Offer Hope

March 5, 2019

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As you’ve no doubt heard, the U.S. tax code got a major overhaul with the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. So what does that mean for the return you’re filing right about now? It means you may not be able to take some deductions from the old tax code that saved you major bucks in the past. Ouch!

But it’s not quite as bad as you might think. Many tax breaks haven’t disappeared completely; rather they’ve just morphed a bit, redefining who qualifies and for how much. To clue you in to these new rules, here’s a rundown of five major tax breaks that have changed this filing year, and who still qualifies for them.

1. Home office tax deduction

You may have heard a rumor that the home office tax deduction went the way of the dodo. Yes, the deduction is gone for W-2 employees of companies who work in a home office on the occasional Friday.

“For non-self-employed people, the home office deduction is going away entirely,” says Eric Bronnenkant, certified public accountant, certified financial planner, and Betterment’s head of tax.

The loophole: If you’re self-employed full time, this deduction lives on. Here’s more info on how to take a home office tax deduction.

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Watch: 5 Pet-Related Tax Deductions We Bet You Didn’t Know Of

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2. Unlimited property tax

One of the biggest changes for homeowners in the new tax bill is the cap on deducting property taxes.

“Before, regardless of the amount, all property taxes were tax-deductible,” explains Bronnenkant. Yet this season, “the maximum you can deduct is $10,000, and that includes state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax.”

So if you pay more than $10,000 a year between your state and local income taxes, property tax, and sales tax, anything exceeding that amount is no longer deductible. This is something to keep in mind as homeowners consider tax benefits of their current or future home.

The loophole: “It is worth noting that this limit applies to a taxpayer’s primary, and in some cases secondary, residence,” says Bill Abel, tax manager of Sensiba San Filippo in Boulder, CO. “But it may not apply to rental real estate property.”

Why? The $10,000 overall tax limit is applied on Schedule A as an itemized deduction, which would have no bearing on the tax deduction for a rental property on Schedule E. So if you’re a landlord, your deduction could edge past that $10,000 limit; make sure to max it out!

3. Moving expenses

If you moved in 2017, lucky you: You are the last to take advantage of the ability to deduct your moving expenses.

The loophole: Active members of the armed forces who moved (or move) after 2017 can still take this deduction, according to Patrick Leddy, a tax partner at Farmand, Farmand, and Farmand.

4. Mortgage interest

One major change for homeowners who purchased a house after Dec. 15, 2017, is that they will be allowed to deduct the interest on no more than $750,000 of acquisition debt—that’s a loan used to buy, build, or improve a main or secondary home, says Abel. This is in contrast to the $1,000,000 limit on acquisition debt, which still applies to existing loans incurred on or before Dec. 15, 2017.

The loophole: Homeowners who refinance their debt that existed on or before Dec. 15, 2017, are generally allowed to maintain their $1,000,000 limit from the original mortgage.

5. Interest on a home equity loan

A home equity loan is money you borrow using your home as collateral. This “second mortgage” (because it’s in addition to your original home loan) often takes the form of a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. Traditionally, the interest on these loans could be deducted up to $100,000 for married joint filers and $50,000 for individuals. And you could use that money to pay for anything—college tuition, a wedding, you name it.

But now, home equity loan interest is deductible only if it’s used for one purpose: to “buy, build, or improve” your home, according to the IRS. So if you’re dying to update your kitchen or add a half-bath, you’ll get a tax break from Uncle Sam. But if you want to tap your home equity to go to grad school, well, that’s on you.

More bad news: Unlike the mortgage interest deduction—where loans taken before Dec. 15, 2018, could be grandfathered into the old laws—home equity loans have no such exemption. People with existing HELOC debt take the hit just like homeowners applying for one now.

The loophole: To reclaim this deduction, you could refinance your second mortgage and your first into a new mortgage that lumps together both debts. This essentially turns your HELOC into a regular mortgage, which means that you can deduct that interest. Just remember that refinancing can be costly, and that this new loan will be subject to the new, smaller limits on deducting mortgage interest—$750,000.

Worried about losing all of these deductions? Don’t freak out!

Though the new tax plan is drastically changing how most people will file their taxes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up owing more. Deductions may be dropping, but so are the tax rates for most income groups. And the standard deduction grew to $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly. So, it may all balance out.

The post 5 Tax Breaks That Disappear This Year—and Some Loopholes That Offer Hope appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.