Buy vs rent market

buy vs rent
Buy vs Rent Housing Market (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

After last year’s active spring, the housing market’s fall home sale decline shocked many.  Although home sales were on target to outpace the previous year’s activity, the slowdown diminished the spring’s impact.  In fact, the National Association of Realtors (nar.realtor) January 22nd press release indicated a sharp decline of home sales during December.  The 6.4 percent month over month nationwide decline should not have been a surprise because of the season.  However, December’s nationwide 10.3 percent sales decline from the previous year is significant.  The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (gcaar.com) indicated that Montgomery County single family home sales decreased 12.2 percent during December. Is this an indication of another buy vs rent market?

Back in August, I predicted and discussed the causes for the fall’s sales slowdown.  Among the issues that contributed to the slowdown include increasing mortgage rates and the continued home sale inventory shortage. However, it’s important to note that although home sales seemed to go to sleep during the early winter, home sale prices continue to increase.  It’s not the 4-5 percent price gain that home owners have become accustomed.  But the 2.9 percent nationwide price increase (2.7 percent increase in Montgomery County) during December is indicative that home ownership is still valued.

Although there are many who are saying it’s now a buyer’s market, it’s not entirely true.  The current housing environment has home buyers under pressure.  Increasing mortgage interest rates are making buying a home more expensive, and there are not many homes from which to choose.  Consequently, motivated home buyers who are eager to buy a home during the winter are pushing back against high home prices.  The reality is that home sellers will remain in the driver’s seat as long as they price their homes correctly.

There is a lot of promise for the spring, but it still depends on many factors (such as inventory).  But the push back on increasing home prices will likely continue, as home buyers are increasingly sensitive to housing costs.  “Buy vs rent” and housing affordability will once again become hot topics this spring. 

Buy vs rent is on the mind of home buyers. Although buyers are in the market to buy, there is no urgency. However, it’s clear that this market is about value.

If you’re a home buyer trying to figure out the market, consulting with a professional Realtor can help you decide if it’s the right time to buy a home.  Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy Calculator (trulia.com) is a tool that compares the cost of buying to renting a home over time in a specific area.  It can estimate the point at which home buying is better than renting.  However, depending on your budget and area, renting may be a better financial option.  Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA) and the Housing Opportunities Commission (hocmc.org) offers affordable housing programs for first time home buyers and renters.

If you’re a home seller, think back to the 2014 spring housing market when home buyers pushed back at the sharp home price gains of 2013.  It’s recommended that you don’t take home buyers for granted, buyers are just as savvy as you.  Keep in mind that buyers are thinking about “buy vs rent.” Don’t over-price your home, however expect to negotiate the price.  Make your home show its best through preparation and staging.  Stay away from cheap renovations meant to look expensive, this can actually decrease your home’s value.  If you’re selling “by owner,” consider consulting a staging professional to help prepare and stage your home.  If you’re listing your home with a Realtor, your agent should have a strategy to sell for top dollar in this market. 

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/01/25/buy-vs-rent-housing-market

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Homestead tax credit – are you getting yours?

Homestead Tax Credit
Homestead (infographic from census.gov)

It’s been eleven years since Maryland forced all qualifying homeowners to reapply for the Homestead Property Tax Credit.  Prior to the change in the application, applying for the Homestead Tax Credit was almost automatic for homeowners who claimed a primary residence.  However, many abused the program to get tax credits on non-principal residences by claiming multiple properties or rental properties as their primary residence.  The 2007 change was implemented to reexamine ownership, so as to stop the abuse of the property tax credit program.

The Homestead Property Tax Credit was created to assist homeowners with significant assessment increases on their principal residences.  The credit limits the amount of taxable assessments.  The state requires each county and municipality to limit taxable assessments to ten percent or less.  Most of Montgomery County is limited to the state cap of ten percent.  The Homestead Credit limits the property tax that the homeowner pays to the allowed limit.

According to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation website (dat.maryland.gov), the Homestead Property Tax Credit is granted if during the previous year: the property was not transferred to new ownership; there was no change in the zoning classification requested by the homeowner resulting in an increase value of the property; a substantial change did not occur in the use of the property; the previous assessment was not clearly erroneous; the dwelling must be the owner’s principal residence and the owner must have lived in it for at least six months of the year (including July 1 of the year for which the credit is applicable), unless the owner was temporarily unable to do so by reason of illness or need of special care.

A homeowner who vacates their home for major improvements, or plans to raze the home to build a new home may qualify for the Credit if the following two conditions are met: (1) the property was the homeowner’s principal residence for at least 3 full tax years immediately preceding the razing or starting the improvements; and (2) the building of the replacement home or the improvements must be completed within the next succeeding tax year after the tax year in which the razing or the substantial improvements were commenced.

Since 2007, many homeowners and home buyers have been unaware of the Homestead Tax Credit.  Additionally, since then, many homeowners who may qualify for the Credit did not reapply.  Many homeowners who purchased homes since then have also not applied for the Credit.  Besides being unaware of their eligibility for the Credit, they may not have understood the Homestead Tax Credit and the application process.  But this will change because of two bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly (HB990 Homestead Property Tax Credit Notification on Acquisition of Property, and HB305/SB158 Homestead Property Tax Credit Program Eligibility Awareness).

Beginning July 1st, the State Department of Assessments and Taxation is required to mail a notice about the Homestead Property Tax Credit to individuals who purchase a home.  And effective October 1st, the State Department of Assessments and Taxation is required to identify homeowners who may be eligible for the Homestead Property Tax Credit Program (but failed to apply) and provide information on applying for the Credit with each assessment notice. For more information about your Homestead Property Tax Credit eligibility status and application process, please visit the State Department of Assessments and Taxation website (dat.maryland.gov).

Originally published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/07/13/homestead-tax-credit-maryland/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Independence, patriotism and homeownership

independence patriotism home ownership
Old Glory (photo from National Park Service nps.gov)

Let’s come together to celebrate our freedom and independence.  Having innate and inalienable liberties is the foundation of this country.  The concept of independence is abstract and usually expressed as intangible actions, such as the freedom from the tyranny of others.  However, home ownership has become an icon of freedom that is tangible and obtainable.

Last month I wrote about a few of the benefits of owning a home as part of the recognition of National Homeownership Month.  Besides being wealthier, home owners tend to be healthier and happier than their renter counterparts.  The history of owning land has been one of wealth and luxury.  Renting on the other hand has been associated transition, difficult times, and a hard life.  This can be traced back to the middle ages, when serfdom was associated with leasing.

How did owning a home become associated with the American Dream?  Richard Mize revealed the truth about the connection in 2013 (Who first dreamed the American dream of homeownership?; The Oklahoman; June 22, 2013; newsok.com).  Mize cites Eric John Abrahamson’s historical biography “Building Home: Howard F. Ahmanson and the Politics of the American Dream” (University of California Press) as the source of the story.  Abrahamson attributes the idea of home ownership as the American Dream to the restructuring of local savings and loans after the depression of 1896.

Building and loan institutions during the 1800’s certainly did not have the technology nor the interconnectedness our modern banking system has today.  In restructuring the financial system after the 1896 depression, local building and loans were organized to form the U.S. League of Local Building and Loan Associations.  The League’s motto was “The American Home: The Safe-Guard of American Liberties.”  According to Mize, this was promoted as the American Dream.

Abrahamson attributed the League’s first president, Seymour Dexter, with equating the idea of home ownership to liberty.  According to Abrahamson, Dexter felt that owning property was a duty.  Dexter believed Thomas Jefferson’s conviction that independent property-owning farmers would “sustain the independence and virtue of the citizenry and the health of the democracy.”  Dexter viewed the industrialization of America as a “challenge to democracy.”  The industrialized worker was much like the serf of the middle ages who rented a home near their job, and owed allegiance only to their employer (landlord), which was viewed as “politically corrupt.”  And to rebuild America of the 1890s, owning a home became portrayed as patriotic and a “civic virtue.”

In 2011, then president of the National Association of Realtors Ronald L. Phipps wrote (Home ownership matters; magazine.realtor; February 1st, 2011):

Our commitment to home ownership is not about simple self-interest. Rather it is about a larger purpose. Home ownership has been part of the American experience since the very first breath of the Republic.  Today, what we need to do as a nation is connect with our truth and our tradition: Home ownership matters.

It’s not only Realtors who promote home ownership but government as well.  Federal and local government programs exist to encourage home ownership through down payment assistance programs, low interest rate mortgages, and even home renovation programs.

As Seymour Dexter of the U.S. League of Local Building and Loan Associations realized, owning a home is an act of independence and patriotism.  It doesn’t only benefit you personally, but it also benefits your community and the economy.  The idea of independence transcends all ideology and can be exhibited by owning a home.

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Modern homeownership

modern homeownership
Modern Homeownership (infographic from California Association of Realtors car.org)

June is National Homeownership Month.  In recognition of modern homeownership, National Association of Realtors President Elizabeth Mendenhall stated in a June 1st press release that “National Homeownership Month is a time to celebrate and promote the modern American Dream of owning a home.  Homeownership changes lives and enhances futures, and many Americans see it as one of their greatest hopes. These individuals are counting on the nation’s 1.3 million Realtors to champion and protect homeownership and help make it more affordable, attainable and sustainable (nar.realtor).”

The NAR provides a history of celebrating modern homeownership which goes back almost a century (nar.realtor).  The roots of celebrating homeownership go back to the 1920’s when local associations would bring together consumers and brokers during “Real Estate Day” events.  In 1955, the National Association of Realtors created a national “Realtor Week” to promote the value of Realtors when buying a home.  The celebration of modern homeownership began in  1976 when “Realtor Week” was changed to “Private Property Week.”  Then in 1986, the celebration was changed to “American Home Week” to promote owning a home as part of the American Dream.  June became National Homeownership Month through a proclamation by President Bush in 2002, which expanded the American Home Week to include HUD initiatives.  Although 2008 was the last official proclamation of National Homeownership Month, it has been observed annually.  However, last year, President Trump revived the annual proclamation recognizing the significance of homeownership.

Although the idea of homeownership hasn’t changed since the 1920’s, many things have.  For example, buying a home is much easier and affordable today than it was then.  You can now search homes from your couch, rather than driving to individual broker offices.  Additionally, low down payments and thirty-year fixed rate mortgages have made modern homeownership a realty for many.

Of course, some things haven’t changed in a century.  A home is still an asset that maintains relative market value.  Given regular cycles of up and down markets, real estate can appreciate over time.  There are also some tax advantages to owning a home (consult your tax preparer).  Furthermore, owning a home stabilizes communities and encourages civic pride, which positively affect home values.

Additionally, there are many social benefits to homeownership.  Studies demonstrate that home owners tend to be more charitable, have an increased connection to their neighborhood, have an increased general positive life outlook, express an increased self-esteem and higher life satisfaction, and be healthier.  Other studies indicate that children living in owner-occupied homes have higher test scores, higher graduation rates, decreased delinquencies, and an increased participation in organized activities.

homeownership rate
Homeownership Rate (census.gov)

The comparisons of the costs of renting vs. the costs of owning a home hasn’t changed over time.  Of course, the debate takes on a different tone depending on the state of the economy.  During the Great Recession, many believed that owning a home was folly.  Even after the recession, many continued to believe that real estate wasn’t a viable investment, while discounting the other benefits of homeownership.  The homeownership rate bottomed to a modern low of 62.9 percent during the second quarter of 2016 (census.gov).  However, homeownership is back in vogue.  Even with increased home prices and mortgage rates, buying a home today can still be less expensive than renting.

Modern homeownership – your home is a silent witness to your life.

You have a relationship with your home.  When you own a home, your relationship with it is intimate and symbiotic, which contributes to an intangible and intrinsic sense of wholeness.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/06/18/modern-homeownership/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Keeping New Year’s home resolution

home resolution
New Year’s home resolution (infographic from lightstream.com)

Your home is an extension of your persona. The condition of your home impacts how you feel. So, what better way to start the new year than making a New Year’s home resolution to improving your living space?

There is disagreement about the need for and impact of New Year’s resolutions.  Many believe that making a conscious and purposeful declaration to better your life can get you on the right path.  However, many mental health professionals believe that making resolutions can be a set up for failure and disappointment if your expectations are too high.

Making a New Year’s home resolution can be achievable if you make it sensible  and meaningful.  Decide on the goal and make a plan detailing how you will accomplish it.  Ask yourself how the project will improve your life.  Sensory prompts, such as a picture of a clutter free family room or a carpet sample, can help you stay focused on the goal and keep you motivated.  You don’t have to go it alone either.  Consider hiring a professional.  If you decide to go the Do-It-Yourself route, make it a bonding opportunity by enlisting friends and/or family to assist you.

Whether you hire a professional or not, you need a plan on how you will actualize your home project.  It’s good to be ambitious with your New Year’s home resolution, but don’t fall into the trap deciding the project can be completed in one or two days.  Instead, be realistic.  After all, your daily routine is probably busy, if not hectic.  Decide on how much time you can realistically devote to the project, and put in on your calendar.

Whatever your New Year’s home resolution is, start with one room.  If need be, break the room down in sections to help organize where in the room you will begin and where to go next.  Collect and organize the materials you need for the project before you begin.  The greatest distraction from achieving your resolution is a trip to the store for extra supplies.

The most likely number one New Year’s resolution for the home is decluttering.  This makes sense because we all lead busy lives and collect stuff throughout the year.  But reducing the clutter in your home doesn’t only improve its appearance, it can also make you more comfortable.  Decluttering may also give a boost to your mental health.  Consider consulting with a professional organizer to help plan the project.

A home makeover is another popular New Year’s resolution project.  Fresh and new is always in.  Whether it’s painting a room or two, or installing new flooring, giving your home a new look can improve its appearance.  A new look can also affect how we feel.  Choose your color scheme carefully, because various colors elicit different responses.  For example, a blue-grays may seem relaxing, while reds are invigorating and exciting.

Catching up on deferred maintenance seems to be the New Year’s resolution that can get overwhelming.  Despite our best intentions, we all have put off some repair or regular upkeep at one time or another.  But repairs and maintenance are not static.  Meaning that over time, issues can get worse, and neglected systems can break down.  Instead of putting off repairs and maintenance, consider hiring a licensed contractor.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.