5 Tips for Establishing Credit

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If you dream of one-day owning your own home, you’ll most likely need to finance its purchase. Mortgage lenders will want to review your credit history to evaluate whether or not you’re a worthy borrower. So how do you get started establishing a credit history? Here are four ideas for you to get you started:

Open a bank account
Open a bank account and use it responsibly. This is the first step in establishing a financial history.

Get a co-signer
A good way to establish credit is to piggy-back on someone who already has good credit history established and is willing to co-sign, but be aware that any default of credit on your part affects the credit of the co-signer.

Secured Credit Card
Apply for a credit card. Shop around and only apply for a card if you can meet the lender’s requirements. Responsible use will help you build a good credit history. Pay all your bills by their respective due dates and always pay over the minimum amount due.

Use Your Credit Cards
Your credit score is highly based upon the ratio of debt to you incur to your total credit line and your ability to pay that debt on time so using your credit cards will establish examples of this. Try to keep the ratios low by paying your debt down every month. And NEVER EVER close a credit card, even if you don’t use it. It will count towards your total credit line.

Department store and gasoline credit cards
Since gasoline credit cards are not revolving (cannot carry a balance forward month-to-month), often they are easier to obtain than regular credit cards. Similarly, some department stores offer revolving credit for a specific purchase and this is easier to obtain. It is also a good way to establish credit.

If you’d like to chat more about steps you can take now that will help make your dream of homeownership a reality, I’d be happy to offer my expert advice. Just give me a call.

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Advantages to Home Ownership

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If you’re thinking about buying a new home there are many things to consider, including the tax benefits of owning a home. 

Sure, filing taxes may become a little more complicated, but you may be able to deduct home-related expenses and the savings on can add up to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Because the tax rules for homeowners can be tricky, I recommend you consult with a tax professional before deciding what you can and cannot deduct. But in general, you can figure on a number of significant tax breaks associated with homeownership, including:

Mortgage interest. The biggest tax break is reflected in the house payment you make each month since, for most homeowners, the bulk of that check goes toward interest. In most cases, the interest homeowners pay is deductible. This may mean a reduced tax bill overall and a bigger refund.

Property taxes. As a homeowner, you are entitled to deduct payments of real estate tax on your property if you claimed itemized deductions on your tax return. The IRS allows you to deduct real estate taxes on your primary residence and any other homes you own. There are no limits on the dollar amount of real estate taxes you can deduct.

Loan deductions. When homeowners borrow against the equity of their home to finance other investments, the interest they pay on the new loan is also tax deductible, within IRS guidelines. Generally, equity debts of $100,000 or less are fully deductible.

Improvements on your residence: While you generally cannot deduct improvements to your home on your taxes, such items can lower your tax bite down the road. Improvements such as a family room addition, a kitchen makeover, or a pool increase the “basis” of your home – i.e., the purchase price plus improvements. When you go to sell, the higher your basis is, the less you will have to pay in capital gains taxes if you pay at all.

Tax-free profits. The government allows homeowners to keep tax-free profits from the sale of a home that has been their primary residence for at least two years. Single taxpayers don’t owe taxes on the first $250,000 of profit from the sale of a principal residence, while married homeowners get $500,000 when filing jointly.

These tax savings can add up quickly. On a $500,000, 30-year mortgage loan at five percent, for example, a homeowner would end up paying nearly $25,000 in the first year in interest alone. At a 33 percent federal and state income tax rate, the mortgage interest deduction alone would save more than $8,200 in that tax year! But again, tax laws are complicated and everyone’s tax situation is different. Consult your tax professional to see how the rules apply to your situation. In the meantime, if you have any questions about purchasing a home and how much you can afford, feel free to give me a call! 

Why Now May Be the Right Time to Downsize Your Home

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For many people, their house may be their biggest asset. But it also can be their biggest expense. That’s true whether they’re planning for retirement or even if they already are in retirement. So it’s no wonder that many homeowners begin to think about selling their home and moving into a smaller one as they approach their golden years.

Downsizing your home doesn’t have to mean downsizing your lifestyle. Homes have steadily expanded over the years with the average home now more than 2,600 square feet in the U.S. according to Census data – 60% larger than it was 40 years ago when families were bigger! So there is plenty of room to downsize without cramping your style.

But downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean moving to a smaller home. It can also mean moving to a less expensive residence that’s the same size. Something as simple as moving from a top, reputable school district to a district that is not highly rated may lower the cost of a house. And if you do not have school age children, the quality of the school district may not be that important to you.

If you’ve been kicking around the idea of cashing in on your home’s equity and moving into a smaller property, there are a number of reasons why it may be the best move you can make right now:

  • The housing market in our area has rebounded quite nicely from the recession with the value of many homes climbing in recent years. Cashing in on some of that equity appreciation may help provide retirement income and extend the life of your nest egg. For more information on the propriety of such a move, please first consult with your financial advisor.

  • A smaller home may mean a smaller mortgage payment each month if you are still paying off an existing loan. Or it might mean paying off your mortgage entirely and being debt free on your new home. Additionally, downsizing may lower your property taxes, energy costs, property insurance and ongoing maintenance and repair expenses depending upon the choices you make.

  • According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR), housing costs (including utilities, taxes and upkeep), represent one of the biggest expenses for a retired couple – 30 percent of expenses for a couple aged 65-74. That’s money that can be spent on other things in retirement.

  • For example, CRR estimates that a couple downsizing from a $375,000 home to a $250,000 home may be able to cut their annual expenses and increase their annual income from savings by a combined $7,260. CRR provides a calculator that may enable you to determine your own savings here. As always, it’s a good idea to consult with your financial advisor before making any decisions.

  • Some homeowners are reluctant to trade a house for a condominium or town house because of concerns regarding the financial impact of homeowners’ association fees. While such fees can change one’s monthly budget, keep in mind that you may be paying similar expenses as a homeowner in the form of maintenance and upkeep costs.

  • While a smaller home may mean less space, it could also mean less time and aggravation spent on keeping up a big house. Without all the work that goes into keeping up a bigger home, you may actually find a lot more time to enjoy traveling, hanging out with friends, picking up new hobbies and, generally, having more fun!

  • Moving from a suburban home to an apartment or condo building in a downtown area with amenities on site may open up a whole new world for retirees. Those who have made the switch often find that they now can enjoy more trips to the theater, nightclubs, restaurants, shopping, as well as taking advantage of fitness centers and other on-sight activities.

According to the Wall Street Journal, it can pay to downsize sooner rather than later for those approaching retirement or already retired. The financial benefits can add up over time. Additionally, as we get older, moving gets harder thus it may make a lot of sense to move now rather than waiting.

If I can help answer any of your questions about downsizing, please give me a call or e-mail me today. I’d be happy to discuss the pros and cons of making a move and help you decide if downsizing is right for you.

Just Listed! Remodeled Craftsman Style Home Near Japantown in San Jose

Remodeled Craftsman-style Home Near Japantown!
674 E. Empire
Street, San Jose

 

Nicole Emanuel (Culbertson)

Direct: (408) 355-1512

Mobile: (408) 410-2060

CA DRE# 01899594

Nicole.Emanuel@cbnorcal.com

674 E. Empire Street, San Jose
2 bedroom + bonus room & 1 bath
Approximately 1,000 (permits unknown)
$495,000

Welcome Home! Recently remodeled craftsman-style home incorporates original charm with modern day finishes! Features bamboo flooring, french doors, gourmet kitchen with granite, remodeled bath, renovated back yard and 2-year old roof! Third room can be used as an office, baby’s room or a sitting room. Home is approximately 1,000 square feet – permits unknown (assessors office 884). Located across the street from a park and a short walk to Japantown and Watson Dog Park!

©2013 Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. All Rights Reserved. Coldwell Banker® is a registered trademark licensed to Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. An Equal Opportunity Company. Equal Housing Opportunity. Each Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Office Is Owned by a Subsidiary of NRT LLC. All rights reserved. This information was supplied by Seller and/or other sources. Broker believes this information to be correct but has not verified this information and assumes no legal responsibility for its accuracy. Buyers should investigate these issues to their own satisfaction. If your property is currently listed for sale, this is not intended as a solicitation. If your property is listed with a real estate broker, please disregard. It is not our intention to solicit the offerings of other real estate brokers. We are happy to work with them and cooperate fully. DRE License #01908304

Time to Buy or Sell – Mortgage Rates at Record Low

It’s official. According to Freddie Mac, 30-year fixed mortgage rates have hit a low of 3.91%. What does this mean to you, you ask? Well for one thing, it means that you can refinance that old loan you took out on your house back in 1994 when rates spiked. It also means that those who have been on the fence about wanting to purchase a new home in 2011 have even more reasons to do so.

In my last blog post, I mentioned how the middle market was seeing some sluggishness as current home owners were wary of trading up for a larger home in the Bay Area market. Given where rates are today, those looking to ‘trade up’ should find the purchase a little less risky and perhaps in 2012 we will see some movement in the mid-range market which encompasses the majority of the Bay Area. Additionally, the first-time buyer market should see some good traction with new buyers able to take advantage of great rates and home values still below peak along with FHA loan maximums at $729,000.

According to an article today on CNNMoney.com “Mortgage Rates Hit another Record Low,” there could be even more reason to buy in 2012 as lenders may be loosening up on borrowing requirements a little bit during the year.

With more buyers in the market, those thinking about selling their homes should consider the beginning of 2012 to do so before a possible rate increase comes our way.

As always, if you have any questions about buying or selling your home, feel free to get in touch with me today.

Great Reasons to Own a Home

“A man complained that [on] his way home to dinner he had every day to pass through that long field of his neighbor’s.  I advised him to buy it, and it would never seem long again.”     -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ownership of real estate can provide a place to truly call your own as well as a way to provide a good neighborhood for your kids to grow up in, and freedom from the whims of your landlord. Yet some of the biggest advantages of owning a home are less romantic and more practical – in fact, there are wonderful financial advantages to owning a home:

  • Tax Deductibility You can deduct the cost of your mortgage loan interest from your state and federal income taxes. Since interest generally will account for most of your payment during the first half of your mortgage, the savings can be significant. Some of your costs at the time of closing (including prepaid mortgage interest) can be taken as deductions on that year’s income tax return, and points paid up front at the time of closing represent additional mortgage interest and may be taken as a deduction. In addition, you can deduct all of the property taxes you pay as well.
  • Appreciation Potential Real estate is considered a good long-term investment because it usually appreciates in value especially given where values are in some markets today. The effects of borrowing potential can also increase as the value of the home appreciates.
  • Capital Gains Exclusion When it’s time to sell your home the amount of capital gains you have to pay is reduced. A homeowner can exclude up to $500,000 per couple if married and filing jointly, or $250,000 if single or filing separately for homes that have been the taxpayer’s principal residence for the previous two years.
  • Capital Gain Treatment Congress allows preferential tax treatment on gains from capital assets held for more than one year. This would be important for a homeowner who has gains in excess of the allowable exclusion.
  • Personal Enjoyment Pride of ownership is a valid reason for wanting to own a home as well. You can personalize your home while enjoying the financial benefits!

If you are considering purchasing your first home, I would love to speak with you further to help evaluate your current situation.