Don’t Miss these Tax Deductions

Its that time of year  –  everyone is organizing receipts and information for tax preparation. If you bought a home this year, refinanced your home or made energy improvements to your home, don’t overlook these important deductions.

  • MORTGAGE INTEREST  –  the interest paid on your mortgage is probably your biggest allowable deduction.
  • POINTS – If you purchased a home in 2016 and paid points to get a better interest rate, that expense is tax deductible. Points on refinance loans and home equity loans are also deductible but must be spread over the life of the loan instead of all in one year’s return.
  • ENERGY CREDITS – If you made any improvements that improve the energy efficiency of your home you may qualify for a tax credit. Those items could include insulation, windows, doors and roofs. A tax credit is better than a deduction because its a dollar-for-dollar savings instead of simply saving you whatever tax you paid based on your income bracket. There are limits on energy credits depending on what you purchased, so be sure to check with a tax professional.
  • PROPERTY TAXES – Property taxes paid on your primary residence are deductible. You may complain about your real estate taxes, but at tax time they work in your favor and can save a lot on your tax return.

Check with your tax professional to be sure you’ve taken advantage of all the possible tax savings on your 2016 taxes and going forward, keep receipts and information for this year organized to make next year’s tax preparation job easier.

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Buyers Need Patience, Sense of Humor

down paymentIn a recent search of 2+ bedroom condos in Bellevue the results were pretty bleak. Just 28 homes listed for sale with prices ranging from $300,000 to $13,950,000. Of those 28 homes 13 were priced under $1 million and of those 13, only three were priced under $500,000. Just 28 condos for sale in the entire city  –  we’re definitely experiencing a shortage of available homes.

Downtown Bellevue is one of the hottest addresses on the Eastside, and while many condo buyers focus on the city’s urban communities, with limited inventory they are expanding their search beyond downtown. In the past this would have opened up the selection of available homes, but inventory is in short supply everywhere on the Eastside.

If you’ve been searching for a home in recent months you already know, with high demand and low inventory, that multiple offers are common. For every house for sale there may be 3, 4, 5 or more offers submitted. Only one buyer can prevail, so the other buyers are back in the search for the next new listing. As we head into spring there should be an increase in the number of homes coming on the market, but rather than the typical 8-10 per week it’s likely to be just 2-3 per week. Buying a home should be fun, but this year its going to require patience, preparation and a sense of humor. Buyers need to be positioned to win, so now more than ever it pays to work with an experienced lender and a Realtor® who know the market and will serve as your advocates and guide you through the process.

Conforming Loan Limits Increased

house on moneyLoan limits for mortgage loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will increase next year for the first time in ten years. In recognition of rising home prices nationwide, the loan limit for a conforming loan (not a jumbo loan)  will increase from $417,000 to $424,100. For areas like the Seattle/Bellevue metropolitan area, which have a more expensive housing market, loan limits are much higher. In King, Pierce and Snohomish counties conforming loan limits will increase from $540,500 to $592,250 next year.

What does this mean if you’re planning to purchase a home in 2017? Jumbo mortgage loans (over the new limit of $592,250) generally have higher interest rates, require higher credit scores and larger down payments of 15-20%. These steep requirements can keep many highly qualified home buyers out of the market  –  buyers who have the income and employment history to qualify for a loan but don’t have a 20% down payment. When the conforming loan limit is raised, it opens the door giving qualified buyers with 3%, 5% or 10% down an opportunity to get in the game.

If you haven’t talked with a lender or Realtor® lately, now would be the time to start that conversation to see how the increase in loan limits could benefit you.

Rising Interest Rates – No Need to Over React

11942855114_79a3d587dc_m (1)The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.25 percent this week, causing concern that increasing mortgage interest rates will follow, which could have a negative impact on the housing market. Its unlikely we’ll see any significant increase in mortgage interest rates in the immediate future. Could they rise next year, possibly, but not enough to cause concern. The latest increase in interest rates will likely be felt first for revolving credit (credit cards and home equity loans). For non-revolving loans, like mortgages, there should be little, if any, immediate impact. Any increase in mortgage rates does make buying a home more expensive, but its the credit card debt, which may become more expensive, that could be of concern for buyers who want to purchase a home next year.

Here’s a little perspective . . . many years ago I worked in the mortgage banking industry in Washington, DC. Mortgage interest rates were in the low teens and people still bought and sold homes. After that experience, any interest rate under 10% looks great to me! With current interest rates still so favorable, any slight increase isn’t likely to have a negative impact on area home values.