Things to check around your home

Things to check

“Checklists are helpful because it requires little effort to know what must be done.  They are usually concise and provide enough information to complete the task.”

Checklists are helpful because it requires little effort to know what must be done.  They are usually concise and provide enough information to complete the task.  These items apply to most homeowners but in no way offer a comprehensive list.

  1. Vacuum dryer exhaust … not only does it affect the efficiency of your dryer itself, the accumulation of lint along with the hot air can ignite and create a fire hazard.
  2. Replace HVAC filters 4 to 6 times a year … This is one DIY project that almost everyone should feel confident in handling.  Locate the filter, make a note of the size, and keep replacements available.  Turn off the unit, open the door or housing, remove the dirty filter, and replace it with the new one.  Pay attention to the direction of the air flow; filters are marked to indicate the correct direction.
  3. Test all GFCI breakers. – GFCI breakers, as well as outlets, have a test button on them.  Pressing the test button should cause the breaker to trip which shuts off all power to the entire circuit.  To reset the breaker, push it completely to off and then, back to on.
  4. Vacuum refrigerator coils … Coils on refrigerators can be in different places depending on the model and manufacturer.  Locate the coils and clean the dirt and dust from them using a soft bristle brush or a vacuum cleaner with a brush.
  5. Replace batteries in smoke detectors … smoke detectors should be tested monthly by pushing the test button.  Annually, the batteries should be replaced, even if they appear to still have life in them.  After replacing the batteries, test the smoke detector to see if it is functioning properly.
  6. Check windows and doors for leaks … There are several ways to check for leaks.  One method used on a cold day would be to hold your hand a few inches from the window or door frame to feel for drafts.  Another method would be to light a candle and trace the outline of the window or door to see if the flame or smoke pull in one direction, indicating an air leak.
  7. Inspect all sprinkler system stations to see if heads are leaking or need adjusting. … Manually, turn on each of the stations and look at each sprinkler that is running to see if it is leaking or if it is properly covering the area intended. 
  8. Check garage door opener to see that safety features engage properly … Place a cardboard box in line of one of the sensors before trying to close the door.  The door should reverse itself after sensing the obstruction.
  9. Check and clean fireplace(s) annually, if used … this may be a job that you want to have someone else do but you may be able to recognize indicators that the chimney needs cleaning.  These things include evidence of birds or animals; fireplace smells like a campfire; smoke fills the room; difficulty starting or keeping a fire going; the fireplace walls have oily marks; the damper is black with soot and creosote. The frequency of use on wood burning fireplaces will impact the need for cleaning.

If you need a recommendation of a service provider for repairs, contact me, realtor@mckeesmith.com with what you are looking for.  I’ve been a REALTOR® selling homes in Dallas and Fort Worth for years. I know the DFW area very well.  I’ll get back to you quickly. Remember – McKee has the keys to selling your home!

Are the Holidays a good time to sell or buy?

Are the Holidays a good time to sell

Sales of homes in the middle of DFW in December have averaged 73% of June for the past ten years! This is still a good time to sell!

Are the Holidays a good time to sell or buy? Yes, they are! This video explains why!

Ready to have a conversation? Click here!

McKee Smith, REALTOR®, has been helping people like you sell and buy homes in the DFW area for many years. He is very knowledgeable about the housing market in Dallas and Fort Worth. Remember – McKee has the keys to selling your home!

Property Inheritance

Inherited property

“Stepped-up basis avoids recognizing the gain between the decedent’s cost and what it is worth when it is inherited.”

Stepped-up basis is an incredible benefit to people who inherit property.  Not only do they receive the property itself, but the basis or cost value of the property also becomes the fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death.  This avoids recognizing the gain between the decedent’s cost and what it is worth when it is inherited.

If a person had purchased a home for $100,000 and 20-years later when they died, it was worth $500,000, there would be a potential gain in the property of $400,000.  However, because of a tax provision called step-up tax basis, the person inheriting the property will have a basis of the fair market value at the time of death.

The recipient could sell the property for $500,000 and have no taxable gain on the sale.

A formal appraisal is the most reliable and defensible estimate of fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death.  There will be a fee of several hundred dollars for the appraisal.  Another alternative is to get a broker’s opinion of value in writing.  It may be reasonable to get three opinions to see if they are similar.  They should rely on comparable sales to justify their position.  Either method is acceptable to IRS.

There is a discussion from the current President about the possibility of eliminating the step-up in basis that allows families to leave assets to their heirs without having to pay capital gains tax.  Some people consider it to be a tax loophole for the ultra-rich but it can impact ordinary people who inherit property and do not want to have to sell it. 

An example would be a family farm that when inherited by the heirs may not be able to afford to pay the capital gains tax due at the time of transfer and they could be forced to sell the property or borrow the money to pay the tax, assuming that was possible.

The federal estate tax is paid from the deceased’s remaining estate, not by the heir.  If the decedent’s estate is approaching the limit before estate taxes are due, currently $11.7 million, professional tax advice should be considered because there could be additional provisions in play.  More information on this can be found on IRS.gov.

McKee Smith, REALTOR®, has been helping people buy and sell homes in the DFW area for many years. He’s helped many people buy, sell, and become better homeowners in Dallas and Fort Worth. Remember – McKee has the keys to selling your home!

Uncle IRRRL wants to refinance your VA loan

Uncle IRRL

“If you are a Veteran and considering a refinance, ask your mortgage professional about this program. “

You don’t have to have an Uncle IRRRL but you must be a veteran with a current VA-backed home loan. IRRRL is an acronym for Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan. To refinance with this program, also called the VA Streamline, the loan must provide a net tangible benefit (NTB) which would be in the financial interest of the Veteran. 

Obtaining a lower interest rate is usually the reason behind refinancing but there needs to be enough difference in the current and the new mortgage to justify the expenses incurred.  Significantly lower payments or a shorter term are examples of acceptable benefits.

The Veteran must currently have a VA-backed home loan to refinance using this program.  The Veteran does not have to currently live in the home as long as it can be certified that he or she did at one time.

In most cases, an appraisal is not necessary and less verifications are required.  A minimum 640 credit score is needed, and borrower must be current on their payments with no 30-day late payments in the previous 12-months.  A two-year employment history is required.

There are expenses associated with the IRRRL but they can be rolled into the loan balance.  The VA funding fee, required on new VA loans for purchases or refinances is lower on the IRRRL at 0.5%.  Disabled Veterans and qualifying surviving spouses refinancing under this program are exempt from the VA funding fee.

This program is not available for a cash-out refinance.  There is a $6,000 exception for additional funds to pay energy improvements completed 90-days prior to closing.  Your lender can provide more information for you.

If you are a Veteran and considering a refinance, ask your mortgage professional about this program.  If you need a recommendation for a trusted mortgage professional who is experienced in VA loans, give me a call at (972) 333-8638 or realtor@mckeesmith.com.

McKee Smith, REALTOR®, has been helping people buy, sell and be better homeowners in Dallas and Fort Worth for many years. He can help you with your DFW area home as well! Remember – McKee has the keys to selling your home!

Rising Rents – Music To Your Ears?

Rising rents

“Interestingly, detached rentals are experiencing an even higher growth rate of 7.9% year over year compared to the 2.2% annual rate for attached rentals.”

Rents going up may not be pleasant to hear for tenants, but it could be music to your ears if you are an investor.

The recent CoreLogic Single-Family Rent Index, April 2021, showed a 5.3% increase in national rent year over year which doubled the increase experienced in April 2020.  This is the largest annual rent price increase in nearly 15 years.

Interestingly, detached rentals are experiencing an even higher growth rate of 7.9% year over year compared to the 2.2% annual rate for attached rentals.  This is supported by the CoreLogic report that half of millennials and 2/3 of baby boomers “strongly prefer to live in a single, stand-alone home.”

From an investor’s point of view, single-family rentals offer large loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for long terms on appreciating assets with definite tax advantages and reasonable control. 

Rentals are considered to be the IDEAL investment because if offers income to offset the carrying cost of the investment; depreciation contributing to annual cash flows with a non-cash deduction; equity build-up because a portion of each payment is applied to principal reduction; appreciation with increases in value; and, leverage that increases the overall yield through the use of borrowed funds.

Most homeowners are very aware of the housing inventory shortage that has caused homes to rise over 12% in the past year.  The increased demand for homes coupled with the shortage of supply has contributed to the rapid appreciation.  The trend is expected to continue for years.

While appreciation is a large component to the rate of return, cash flows are bolstered by the increasing rents.  This combination makes investments in single-family rentals very attractive.

An added appeal is the familiarity and understanding of this type of investment because it requires the same aspects as homeownership.  The same service providers a person uses for their home can be used for rentals.  For the investors who don’t want to manage the property themselves, professional management is available for placing and qualifying a tenant only or the entire process including collecting the rent and maintenance.

For more information, download my Rental Income Properties guide. Contact McKee Smith, REALTOR®, if you’d like to have a more in-depth conversation and address any personal questions you might have.

Removing Or Adding A Person To A Loan

“The difference in a minimally acceptable credit score and something that might be considered “good” could be as much as a 0.5% higher rate for the term of the mortgage.”

In divorce situations, it is common, for the spouse who keeps the home to refinance to remove the other spouse from the loan.  Equally as common, first-time buyers who don’t have enough income to qualify may ask a parent to co-sign and must add their name to the mortgage.

Another situation that requires removing or adding a person to a loan could be to qualify for a better interest rate.  The difference in a minimally acceptable credit score and something that might be considered “good” could be as much as a 0.5% higher rate for the term of the mortgage.

Consider that a couple is buying a home on a conventional loan, and they have individual credit scores of 760 and 670.  The underwriters will price the loan based on the lower of the two scores.  A half percent interest on a $400,000 30-year mortgage could have close to $110 a month difference.

A possible solution to this dilemma could be available, assuming the borrower with the higher credit score had enough income to qualify for the mortgage separately.  If so, that person would be eligible for the lower rate.

The property could still be titled in both names and if so, that person would be liable for the mortgage should the named borrower default on the loan.

Another scenario that may arise is that a couple has enough income to qualify for a mortgage but because one of the parties has a lower credit score, it will be priced higher.  Having a parent or relative added to the mortgage as a non-occupying borrower to help with the credit score.  Interest rates are determined on the lowest middle of three scores for the borrowers applying for the loan.

Assuming the parent’s score was higher than the lower score of the couple, it could improve the rate applied to the mortgage loan.

The value of a trusted mortgage professional, like McKee Smith, REALTOR®, is very important.  He can offer alternatives to situations that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage and in some cases, can make the difference in being approved at all.

McKee Smith, REALTOR®, would be more than willing to make a recommendation and can support the need to assemble a strong team to help with your transaction.

Home Owners Need To Know How

Know How

“Making minor repairs is part of the responsibility of owning a home that will save both time and money.”

In the Boy Scouts, a certification, called a Totin’ Chip, is required for scouts to carry, and use woods tools like a knife, axe, and a saw.  They must read and understand the use and safety rules from the scout handbooks and demonstrate the proper handling, care, and use of each.

No such certification is required for homeowners but there are a lot of good reasons why it should be self-imposed.  Making minor repairs is part of the responsibility of owning a home that will save both time and money.

A homeowner will certainly appreciate the need for such training the first time a call is made to a service company to fix their air conditioner that suddenly quit cooling.  When the repairman arrives, he has a checklist that includes verifying the unit is getting electricity.  If not, they go to the electrical panel to see if a breaker has been thrown.

It can be very humbling and expensive to have to pay a service fee to have a repairman flip a breaker to get your air conditioning working again.

The basic items every homeowner should be able to do the following:

  • Turn off the water in case of an emergency.
  • Reset a circuit breaker.
  • Change the HVAC filters and clean the outside coils.
  • Clean a dryer vent.
  • Reset a garbage disposer and dislodge a jam by spinning the flywheel
  • Unclog a sink or drain.
  • How to plunge a toilet and when to use an auger.
  • Re-caulk a bathtub or sink
  • Light a pilot light on a water heater or furnace
  • Change the batteries on a smoke alarm

YouTube can be a great resource for searching the millions of videos that have been uploaded to help homeowners with all sorts of do-it-yourself projects.  You should be able to find one that addresses your particular situation, and you can determine if you have the skills and tools to handle it.  If not, just ask for a recommendation.

Cash-Out Refinance

Cash-out refi

“This type of loan replaces the current mortgage by paying it off and an additional amount of cash for the owner.”

With the rapid appreciation that homes have had in the last two years, most homeowners have equity.  A common way to release part of the equity is to cash-out refinance but some homeowners may not be eligible currently.

This type of loan replaces the current mortgage by paying it off and an additional amount of cash for the owner.  Generally, lenders will consider a new mortgage up to a total of 80% of the current value.

Typically, the rate on a cash-out refinance will be slightly higher than a traditional purchase money mortgage.  As is in any lending situation, the rate depends on the borrower’s credit and income.  The best interest rates are available to borrowers with higher credit scores, usually over 740.

Loan-to-value can affect the rate a borrower pays also.  A 70% loan-to-value mortgage could be expected to have a lower interest rate than an 80% LTV because there is a larger amount of equity remaining in the property and therefore, less risk for the lender.

There are no restrictions on how the owner can use the money.  It can be used for home improvements, consolidating debt, other consumer needs or for investment.

Eligibility Requirements as found in FNMA Selling Guide B2-1.3-03 Cash-Out Refinance Transactions

“Cash-out refinance transactions must meet the following requirements:

  • The transaction must be used to pay off existing mortgages by obtaining a new first mortgage secured by the same property or be a new mortgage on a property that does not have a mortgage lien against it.
  • Properties that were listed for sale must have been taken off the market on or before the disbursement date of the new mortgage loan.
  • The property must have been purchased (or acquired) by the borrower at least six months prior to the disbursement date of the new mortgage loan except for the following:
    • There is no waiting period if the lender documents that the borrower acquired the property through an inheritance or was legally awarded the property (divorce, separation, or dissolution of a domestic partnership).
    • The delayed financing requirements are met. See Delayed Financing Exception below.
    • If the property was owned prior to closing by a limited liability corporation (LLC) that is majority-owned or controlled by the borrower(s), the time it was held by the LLC may be counted towards meeting the borrower’s six-month ownership requirement. (In order to close the refinance transaction, ownership must be transferred out of the LLC and into the name of the individual borrower(s). See B 2-2-01, General Borrower Eligibility Requirements (07/28/2015) for additional details.)
    • If the property was owned prior to closing by an inter-vivos revocable trust, the time held by the trust may be counted towards meeting the borrower’s six-month ownership requirement if the borrower is the primary beneficiary of the trust.
  • For DU loan case files, if the DTI ratio exceeds 45%, six months reserves is required.”

For more information, contact McKee Smith, REALTOR®. He has been selling homes in the Dallas and Fort Worth Metroplex for many years. He’s very familiar with the DFW housing market. Remember – McKee has the keys to selling your home!

Keep Your Current Home As A Rental

Rental house

“If you have sufficient equity, you may be able to pull part of it out for your down payment and closing costs and still have equity available for other needs.”

Let’s assume that you have owned your home for several years.  It has increased in value and the unpaid balance is considerably less than you originally borrowed.  In short, you have equity in the home.  You’re thinking about buying another home and one of the questions going through your mind is “should we find a replacement property before we put our home on the market?

It is a good question but maybe there is another one you should be asking.  “Should we keep our current home and convert it to a rental when we buy another home?  The answer to the question may have a great deal to do with your finances but if you can afford it, it may end up being one of the better investments you have made.

Do you have enough discretionary funds for a down payment and closing costs for your new home?  Is it enough to put a 20% down payment so you can avoid paying mortgage insurance?  Can you qualify for the mortgage on the new home with the additional liability of your current home?

You don’t even need “yes” answers to all of these to be considering the possibility of converting your home to a rental.  If you have sufficient equity, you may be able to pull part of it out for your down payment and closing costs and still have equity available for other needs.  Lenders will usually make cash out refinances up to 80% of the value of the home.

Another possibility may be to borrow against your qualified retirement program.  The advantages include speed and convenience (it is your money), repayment flexibility, and cost advantage.  If you believe the stock market is moving toward a down position, this could be an additional incentive to earn more in the rental.

What makes rental properties so attractive right now is that rents are rising and expected to continue because the factors that make a shortage of homes for sale are the same that make the shortage of homes for rent.  The rent collected, less the mortgage payments and expenses will probably result in a positive cash flow before tax.  The other major factor is that homes are appreciating at a very high rate. 

Using borrowed funds to control an appreciating asset is leverage and it can dramatically affect the rate of return an investor enjoys.  The dynamics of income, appreciation and favorable tax benefits make rental real estate very appealing.

Your real estate professional can provide information on the value of your current home, estimates for rental income and expenses and in finding your replacement home.  Talk with your tax advisor to see how this alternative would work for you. 

The good news if you choose this opportunity is you will not have to put your home on the market and the timing of your new purchase became greatly simplified.  It may even be to your advantage to be flexible with the seller’s occupancy which could be a big advantage if you are negotiating against multiple offers. For more information, download my Rental Income Properties Guide.

Or contact me, McKee Smith, REALTOR®. I’ve been selling homes in the DFW area for many years. I’ve very familiar with the Dallas and Fort Worth housing markets. Remember – McKee has the keys to selling your home!

Transferring Property Prior to Death

Transferring property prior to death

“Sometimes people decide to transfer title to real estate prior to their death which could be an unnecessary expense for the would-be heir.”

Sometimes, as people approach the inevitable, they start trying to get their things “in order”.  They may even have a will, but they decide to transfer title to real estate prior to their death which could be an unnecessary expense for the would-be heir.

Generally, when the property is passed through the direction of a will, the heir will receive a stepped-up basis which means that the fair market value of the property at the time of death becomes the cost basis for the heir.  If the property were sold for that fair market value, there would be no gain and no capital gains tax due.

However, if the property is gifted prior to the death of the donor, along with the title to the property comes the cost basis of the property.  The transfer of title does not trigger the capital gains tax but when the property is sold, the gain is calculated by subtracting the basis from the sales price leaving a capital gain subject to tax.  In other words, the person receiving the gift does not get the stepped-up basis.

There certainly can be advantages to transferring the property prior to death.  It completes the transfer without having to wait for the death and bypasses the probate process that might be required to settle the will.  Another advantage to the donor may be to remove the property from the owner’s name which could lower the taxable estate. 

Some owners may transfer title prior to death to qualify for Medicaid.  The value of the asset may make them ineligible.  It may trigger a Medicaid Transfer Penalty when the gift is made within five years and the basis of the property is less than fair market value.

Once a property is deeded to someone, the donor loses control of the asset and it cannot be reversed.  Depending on the value of the estate, there could be gift or estate tax implications.  As mentioned earlier, it may have capital gain tax consequences for the donor when they dispose of the property.

If the person receiving the gift has creditors or judgments, the gift becomes an asset subject to those creditors or judgments.

Even though the mechanics of transferring title to a property is simple, there are many things to consider for both the person giving the property and the one receiving it.  Consult an attorney and tax professional to determine the best-informed decision available.  There could be other alternatives that would better serve your situation.

McKee Smith, REALTOR®, is has been selling homes in Dallas and Fort Worth for many years. He knows the DFW housing market intimately. Remember – McKee has the keys to selling your home!