Buying Your First Home
Memories and Money Await You
First-time homebuyers (FTHB) are taking advantage of one of the best real estate environments we have ever seen. Home affordability this year has been at an all time high with low interest rates and declining home prices. However, buyers on the fence should not be complacent.
Home prices in many markets have not only stabilized but are rising. Interest rates, while still incredibly attractive, could be poised to rise in coming months as stimulus from Washington is scheduled to end in December. Finally, the tax credit of $8,000 for qualifying FTHBs is currently scheduled to end November 30, 2009.
Why Buy a Home?
One of the first questions someone naturally asks themselves as a renter is, “Why should I become a homeowner?” There are many reasons, but probably the first one is the pride in knowing that you have established a foundation for building personal wealth as well as a basis for future memories.
Thinking back to your childhood, many of your fondest memories may be from events in your childhood home. Holidays, birthdays, and family events all typically took place in your home growing up. Anything you and your parents wanted to do to your home, within reason of course, were options of your choosing.
Knowing that you have taken a major step in financial independence also creates a sense of pride that few things can replicate. However, it’s one thing to say owning a home makes sense, it’s another to actually look at how owning a home can help you financially.
Financial Reasons to Buy
Aside from the emotional implications, any decision involving money has to make sense. There are few things anyone can do that have a greater impact on their finances than owning a home.
The reasons to buy your first home are numerous, not only today, but anytime. In a comparison of renters versus homeowners, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board of Consumer Finance found that the average net worth of renters was $4,000 compared to homeowners at $184,400.
Building personal wealth can be accomplished a number of ways but owning a home provides a path that takes advantage of several ways at once, compounding their net impact on your bottom line. Increasing equity leveraged from the reduction of mortgage debt and home price appreciation are one path. Income tax deductions both from the sale and ownership of the property are another.
Move in and Watch it Grow
What do a tree and the impact of owning a home on personal wealth have in common? Neither grow quickly but both grow larger and become stronger over time. A home purchased today at a price of $150,000 will grow in value to $364,000 over 30 years at an appreciation rate of just 3%.
While the impact of home values over the last three years can not be ignored, during the period from 1950-2002, U.S. home prices appreciated at an annual growth rate of 4.8%, or significantly greater than the example just given.
The Impact on Your Wallet – Today
Owning a home creates a number of items that can result in both an immediate and long lasting boost to your wallet. The first is time sensitive and needs to be acted on quickly to benefit.
Income Tax Credit. The income tax credit available from the IRS for up to $8,000 for qualifying FTHBs is scheduled to end November 30, 2009.
Points Pay Twice. Many buyers today are opting to pay points to lower their interest rate. In some cases, this can be a negotiated expense that the seller may pay to incentivize you to purchase their home. Points paid to lower an interest rate are considered pre-paid interest by the IRS and would result in an income tax deduction for the buyer, regardless of who pays it.
Mortgage Interest. One of the largest tax deductions most people report each year is the amount of interest they pay on their mortgage. While not exact, on a $150,000 mortgage with an interest rate of 5.50%, the amount of the first year’s interest would be approximately $8,000. For a family earning $70,000 in a federal tax bracket of 25%, this amounts to a significant savings, effectively reducing the amount of a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment. For those that pay state income taxes, the impact is even greater.
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). PMI is insurance that is mandated by a lender when the amount of a down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price. The purpose of PMI is to protect the lender in the event a borrower later falls into default and the home falls into foreclosure. PMI under most circumstances is a tax deductible expense. Consult your tax advisor for more details.
Real Estate Taxes. Property taxes, which can be normally included in the monthly mortgage payment to your lender are a deductible expense. This deduction also effectively reduces the monthly mortgage payment for the borrower at tax time.
Possibly More Dough. These are not the only expenses that can be deducted from your income at tax time. Other items can include moving expenses associated with a job relocation and home improvements that are deemed energy efficient as determined by the Recovery Act. As always, consult with your tax advisor for specific details about how each type of deduction mentioned in this article could apply to your situation.
Act Now and Plan Accordingly
If you or someone you know plans on purchasing a home in time to take advantage of the tax credit, there are some things to keep in mind. The last day to close to take advantage of the tax credit is Monday, November 30, 2009. Keep in mind, this follows Thanksgiving week. With the holiday offering a shortened work week for many, this will make closing at the end of the month more challenging.
Another item to take into consideration is recent legislation impacting a lender. If the Annual Percentage Rate, or APR, changes by more than .125% from the time of initial application, the lender is required to re-disclose the Truth in Lending statement. When this document must be re-disclosed, time must be allowed for a home buyer to receive the document in the mail and review it for approval.
One way to minimize any need to re-disclose your loan documents is to either lock early in the application process at the interest rate on the loan application or submit an initial loan application with a higher-than-current-market interest rate. So, if current rates are 5.50%, your mortgage professional may suggest your application reflect an interest rate of 5.75% for underwriting and initial loan disclosures.
A prudent buyer may plan for closing to occur no later than November 24, 2009 to allow for any possible delay and still take advantage of the tax credit before it expires on November 30. Another prudent decision would be to allow a minimum of 45 days to get your loan approved and closed. Just be sure that when you lock your interest rate, you allow for a cushion in your lock expiration date in the event your closing is delayed.
This would mean that, for your protection, you should work to get your home under contract not later than the first weekend in October. While some lenders may still be able to accommodate a later purchase contract signing, submitting your application earlier is advisable due to the volume of applications lenders may receive during this time.
Best Path to Take Now
Buying a home today could be the best financial decision a renter can make. Not only does this decision help turn a residence into a home, it establishes a foundation for future personal wealth, both immediately and over time.
To decide what works best for you or someone you know, get pre-approved today so you know exactly what you may qualify for both in purchase price and monthly payment. This one action can remove a lot of stress and simplify the home search process since you will know what you can afford.
From YOU Magazine