Patio in progress

October 25, 2014

A few months ago I posted a couple of blogs about an addition to our home. The summer got away from me, but we did complete the project. We didn’t do the original design of actually coming off of the existing roof but instead did a detached cover with a metal roof. The sound of rain on this roof is wonderful and we certainly have enjoyed the patio so much more this year than when it was an old, worn out pergola. Our next project is to install a TV and another water feature on the brick wall as well as add a deck out into the yard with a fire pit. It is a work in process and we look forward to more time outside with family and friends. Here are some photos of the finished product.

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forced savings.pngIf you invest in a savings account, you’ll make less than 1% and would have to pay income tax on the earnings. On the other hand, contribute something extra to your house payment and you’ll earn at the mortgage interest rate which is certain to be more than you are earning in the bank.

Making additional principal contributions on your mortgage will save interest, build equity and shorten the term. An extra $100 a month in the example shown will save thousands in interest and shorten the term of the mortgage as well.

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Reducing your cost of housing is another way to improve the investment in your home. Becoming debt free is a worthy goal that is achieved with discipline and good decisions. Suggestions like this are part of my commitment to help people be better homeowners when they buy, sell and all the years in between.

Check out what would happen if you were to make additional payments on your mortgage.

Capital Improvement Register.pngHomeowners can raise the basis or cost in their home by money spent on capital improvements. The benefit is that it will lower their gain and may save them taxes when they sell their home.

Improvements must add value to your home, prolong its useful life or adapt it to new uses. Repairs are routine in nature to maintain the value and keep the property in an ordinary, operating condition.

Additions of decks, pools, fences and landscaping add value to a home as well as new floor covering, counter-tops and other updates. Replacing a roof, appliances or heating and cooling systems would be considered to extend the useful life of the home. Completing an unfinished basement or converting a garage to living space are common examples of adapting a portion of the home to a new use.

Other items that can raise the basis in your home are special assessments for local improvements like sidewalks or curbs and money spent to restore damage from casualty losses not covered by insurance.

Here’s a simple idea that could save you money years from now.

Every time you spend money on your home other than the house payment and the utilities, put the receipt or canceled check in an envelope labeled “Home Improvements.” Regardless of whether you know if the money would be classified as maintenance or improvements, the receipt or cancelled check goes in the envelope.

Years from now, when you’ve sold your home and you need to report the gain on the property, you or your accountant can go through the envelope and determine which of the expenditures will be adjustments to your basis.

Some people disregard this idea because of the generous exclusion allowed on principal residences. At the unknown point in the future when you sell your home, circumstances may have changed and the proof of these expenditures will be valuable. The tax laws could lower the exclusion amount or eliminate it altogether. Your marital status may change because of death or divorce. The market value of your home may skyrocket.

Since the future is unknown, it is better to keep track of the improvements as they are made and how much is spent on them. Download an Improvement Register and examples or read more in Publication 523 on Increases to Basis.

Opportunity Costs

October 7, 2014

iStock_000003622913X200x200.jpgSometimes, there are costs associated with not taking a particular action. If a person left their money in a certificate of deposit earning 2% when they could have made an investment that earned 8%, the difference is the opportunity costs associated to not taking action.

If a couple has a down payment and good credit, locking in a low interest rate mortgage for 30 years could easily provide their lowest cost of housing. If that couple waits three years to purchase a home, the price would probably be higher as would the mortgage rate.

However, assuming the price and interest rate remained constant, look at what the opportunity costs might be compared to doing nothing.

If their money was invested in a certificate of deposit at 2.00%, in two years their $8,750 would have grown to $9,104. They would have earned $354 and had to pay ordinary income tax on the interest.

If their money was invested in the stock market that had increased 7%, in two years they would have a profit of $1,268 which would be subject to long-term capital gains tax.

On the other hand, it the same investment was used to buy a home that increased in value at 3% annually, the equity would be $31,938 or an increase of $23,188. Tax would not be triggered until the home is sold and may not be due then based on their homeowner’s principal residence exclusion.

The home goes up in value due to appreciation and the unpaid balance goes down because of amortization. The dramatic difference in growth in the equity of the home is effected by leverage: the use of borrowed funds controlling the asset.

A home is a place of your own where you can feel safe and secure, to enjoy with your family and friends and in many instances, a very good investment. It is difficult to measure the opportunity costs of intangibles but not necessarily money.

Make your own projections with Your Best Investment.

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