Archive for the ‘Client Resources & Advice’ Category

Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the 3.8% Tax

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Learn the most important takeaways for REALTORS® when it comes to the 3.8% tax that’s part of health care reform:

1.) When you add up all of your income from every possible source, and that total is less than $200,000 ($250,000 on a joint tax return), you will not be subject to this tax.

2.) The 3.8% tax will never be collected as a transfer tax on real estate of any type, so you’ll never pay this tax at the time that you purchase a home or other investment property.

3.) You’ll never pay this tax at settlement when you sell your home or investment property. Any capital gain you realize at settlement is just one component of that year’s gross income.

4.) If you sell your principal residence, you will still receive the full benefit of the $250,000 (single tax return)/$500,000 (married filing joint tax return) exclusion on the sale of that home. If your capital gain is greater than these amounts, then you will include any gain above these amounts as income on your Form 1040 tax return. Even then, if your total income (including this taxable portion of gain on your residence) is less than the $200,000/$250,000 amounts, you will not pay this tax. If your total income is more than these amounts, a formula will protect some portion of your investment.

5.) The tax applies to other types of investment income, not just real estate. If your income is more than the $200,000/$250,000 amount, then the tax formula will be applied to capital gains, interest income, dividend income and net rents (i.e., rents after expenses).

6.) The tax goes into effect in 2013. If you have investment income in 2013, you won’t pay the 3.8% tax until you file your 2013 Form 1040 tax return in 2014. The 3.8% tax for any later year will be paid in the following calendar year when the tax returns are filed.

7.) In any particular year, if you have no income from capital gains, rents, interest or dividends, you’ll never pay this tax, even if you have millions of dollars of other types of income.

8.) The formula that determines the amount of 3.8% tax due will always protect $200,000 ($250,000 on a joint return) of your income from any burden of the 3.8% tax. For example, if you are single and have a total of $201,000 income, the 3.8% tax would never be imposed on more than $1,000.

9.) It’s true that investment income from rents on an investment property could be subject to the 3.8% tax. But: The only rental income that would be included in your gross income and therefore possibly subject to the tax is net rental income: gross rents minus expenses like depreciation, interest, property tax, maintenance and utilities.

10.) The tax was enacted along with the health care legislation in 2010. It was added to the package just hours before the final vote and without review. NAR strongly opposed the tax at the time, and remains hopeful that it will not go into effect. The tax will no doubt be debated during the upcoming tax reform debates in 2013.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE 3.8% Medicare Tax

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

You may have seen rumors about a 3.8 percent tax on real estate sales since health care reform was enacted into law more than two years ago. But there’s a lot misinformation out there. Watch a short video featuring NAR experts to get the facts on how this legislation affects only certain home sales.

Calif. Real Estate Fast Facts

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Calif. Median Home Price: August 2012: $343,820 (Source: C.A.R.)
– Calif. highest median home price by region/county August 2012: Marin, $806,450 (Source: C.A.R.)
– Calif. lowest median home price by region/county August 2012: Tehama, $89,170 (Source: C.A.R.)
Calif. Pending Home Sales Index: August 2012: 118.9, up 2.7 percent from July’s 115.8
Calif. Traditional Housing Affordability Index: Second quarter 2012: 51 percent (Source: C.A.R.)
Mortgage rates: Week ending 9/20/2012:
– 30-yr. fixed: 3.49% fees/points: 0.6%
– 15-yr. fixed: 2.77 fees/points: 0.6% 1-yr.
– Adjustable: 2.61% Fees/points: 0.4% (Source: Freddie Mac)


Thanks for reading this blog and I welcome your comments.

-Sylvia E. Miller
Cell: 805-448-8882

Remember my virtual compatriots, until we blog again, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (from Monty Python)!

New HARP 2 Streamlined Application Rules

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have adopted changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), and you may be eligible to take advantage of these changes.

There is a new refinance program that went into effect in early Jan 2012 that allows underwater homeowners the ability to refinance into a lower interest rate, regardless of their Loan-to-Value (LTV).

Referred to as HARP 2.0, DU Refi Plus and the Obama Refinance Plan, the Home Affordable Refinance Program is a federal program under Making Home Affordable that is intended to help 4-7 million responsible homeowners lower their mortgage rates.

Below is a list of questions to help determine if you are potentially eligible for a HARP refinance:

  • Is your home loan owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac?
  • Was your loan sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before May 31, 2009?
  • Are you current on your mortgage payments?
  • Do you owe more than your home is worth, or is there minimal equity in your home?
  • Have you made all of your mortgage payments on time in the last 6 months?
  • Streamlined application process: Borrowers will apply through a streamlined process designed to make it simpler and less expensive for borrowers and lenders to refinance. Borrowers will not be required to submit a new appraisal or tax return. To determine a borrower’s eligibility, a lender need only confirm that the borrower is employed. (Those who are not employed may still be eligible if they meet the other requirements and present limited credit risk. However, a lender will need to perform a full underwriting of these borrowers to determine whether they are a good fit for the program.)

    For more info go to


    Thanks for reading this blog and I welcome your comments.

    -Sylvia E. Miller
    Cell: 805-448-8882

    Remember my virtual compatriots, until we blog again, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (from Monty Python)!

    Brokers’ Confidence in Market Increases

    Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

    By Inman News.

    Real estate brokerage executives are increasingly confident about housing markets and the economy. That’s according to a “Thought Leader” survey of more than 850 brokerage executives at leading franchises and independent brokerage firms that handled more than one-third of U.S. residential real estate transactions last year.

    The survey, conducted in September by real estate marketing technology firm Imprev Inc., found 81.5 percent of brokerage executives were more confident about the housing market than they were in January.

    Most (70.8 percent) said they were “highly confident” (6.2 percent) or “confident” (64.6 percent) that the housing market would continue to improve in the next 12 months, compared to 30.8 percent who said they were “less than confident.”

    Survey question: How confident are you that the housing market will continue to improve in the next 12 months?
    Less than confident
    Highly confident
    Not confident at all

    Source: Imprev Inc.

    Thanks for reading this blog and I welcome your comments.

    -Sylvia E. Miller
    Cell: 805-448-8882

    Remember my virtual compatriots, until we blog again, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (from Monty Python)!

    FHA eases burdensome condo financing rules

    Monday, September 24th, 2012

    By Kenneth R. Harney

    September 23, 2012

    FHA Update

    WASHINGTON ― Here’s some encouraging news for condominium unit owners, sellers and buyers: The biggest source of funding for low-down-payment condo mortgages, the Federal Housing Administration, has revamped controversial rules that caused thousands of buildings across the country to lose their eligibility for FHA financing.

    The revised guidelines, which were issued Sept. 13 and took effect immediately, should make it easier for large numbers of homeowner associations to seek certification by the FHA. The certification process is intended to provide the FHA, a government-run mortgage insurance agency, with key information about a development’s legal, physical and financial status. Without approval of an entire development ― regardless of whether it’s a small complex in the suburbs or a massive high-rise in the center city ― no individual unit can be financed or refinanced with an FHA mortgage.

    One of the most significant changes the FHA made involves personal legal liability for condo association boards and officers. The previous rules required officers to attest that they had “no knowledge of circumstances or conditions that might have an adverse effect on the project or cause a mortgage secured by a unit” to become delinquent, of “dissatisfaction among unit owners about the operation of the project or owners association” or of “disputes concerning unit owners.” The penalty for officers who “knowingly” and “willfully” submitted information to the FHA that was found to be false: fines of up to $1 million and 30 years in prison.

    Although the previous rules focused on entire buildings, individual unit owners seeking to sell often have taken the brunt. The Community Associations Institute, the condo industry’s largest trade group, welcomed the relaxation of the FHA rules, predicting that “this will spark home sales and help tens of thousands of condominium communities begin to recover from the housing slump.”

    Not surprisingly, many board officers declined to take on what they interpreted as lifetime legal responsibility for such details as whether the condominium fully complied with state and local environmental and real estate requirements. Although the FHA insisted that the associations were overreacting, the new certifications contain much less scary language. The penalties for intentional frauds against the government remain the same, however.

    Among other key rule changes:

  • Greater flexibility on investor ownership. In existing developments, one or more investors are now allowed to own up to 50% of the total units provided that at least half of the units are owner-occupied. The previous rule required that no more than 10% of units could be owned by a single investor.
  • The previous treatment of unpaid condo association dues was raised to 60 days from 30 days. Under the revised rule, condo communities where no more than 15% of unit owners are 60 days late on payment of dues can be approved for FHA loans.
  • Clarification of certain insurance requirements that many communities found burdensome.
  • Source: L.A. Times

    Thanks for reading this blog and I welcome your comments.

    -Sylvia E. Miller
    Cell: 805-448-8882

    Remember my virtual compatriots, until we blog again, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (from Monty Python)!

    All the Tenant Screening Tools Landlords Need.

    Friday, September 21st, 2012

    For Your Credit Screening Needs…

    TransUnion SmartMove®

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    TransUnion SmartMove℠ – a web-based solution provides independent landlords with access to the same screening tools used by the largest property management groups. It’s fast and convenient…Check it out at TransUnion SmartMove℠

    Thanks for reading this blog and I welcome your comments.

    -Sylvia E. Miller
    Cell: 805-448-8882

    Remember my virtual compatriots, until we blog again, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (from Monty Python)!

    Shortage of California homes up for sale

    Thursday, September 20th, 2012

    After years of having too many homes and not enough buyers, real estate agents in California now have the opposite problem – too many buyers and not enough homes for sale.

    Making sense of the story:

  • The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) reported Monday that its
    statewide inventory of unsold homes index for existing, single-family detached homes
    fell to 3.2 months in August from 3.5 months in July and 5.2 months in August 2011.

  • The index reflects the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the
    market at the current sales rate. A six- to seven-month supply is considered normal.
    When the number goes higher, inventory is plentiful and it’s considered a buyer’s
    market. When the number goes lower, the advantage goes to the seller.

  • Declining inventory helps explain why the statewide median price of an existing, singlefamily
    detached home rose to $343,820 in August, up 3 percent from July and up 15.5
    percent from August 2011, according to C.A.R.

  • Nationwide, the inventory of homes for sale also has declined. In July, there was a 6.4-
    month supply of homes compared with 9.3 months in July 2011. The current number is
    in line with the long-term average, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF
    REALTORS®. However, NAR also acknowledges there are “acute shortages” in places
    such as California, Arizona, Nevada, and parts of Florida.

  • Also constraining supply is the fact that so many homeowners are underwater – or owe
    more than their homes are worth – and unable to sell without taking a loss. As prices
    rise, more homes will increase in value, but it’s going to take time. Meanwhile, there are
    still a lot of homes that are not likely to come onto the market.

  • At some point, the balance will tip, but it’s hard to predict when. When banks decide
    prices are high enough, they will start unloading houses they have been sitting on,
    according to the chief economist for Trulia.

  • Source: San Francisco Chronicle

    Thanks for reading this blog and I welcome your comments.

    -Sylvia E. Miller
    Cell: 805-448-8882

    Remember my virtual compatriots, until we blog again, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (from Monty Python)!

    Shrinking inventory bolstering many housing markets

    Thursday, September 20th, 2012 8 of top 10 markets with biggest declines are in California

    Top 10 metros for annual list price increases

    Metro Percent Change
    Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Lompoc, Calif. 38.96%
    Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz. 25.00%
    San Francisco 16.97%
    San Jose, Calif. 16.10%
    Boise City, Idaho 13.71%
    Oakland, Calif. 13.56%
    Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. 12.63%
    West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Fla. 12.51%
    Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. 12.51%
    Fort Myers-Cape Coral, Fla. 12.20%

    Source: Inman

    Thanks for reading this blog and I welcome your comments.

    -Sylvia E. Miller
    Cell: 805-448-8882

    Remember my virtual compatriots, until we blog again, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (from Monty Python)!


    Thursday, August 30th, 2012