Thursday, August 30, 2012

Housing Passes a Milestone

The housing market has turned—at last.

The U.S. finally has moved beyond attention-grabbing predictions from housing "experts" that housing is bottoming. The numbers are now convincing.

Nearly seven years after the housing bubble burst, most indexes of house prices are bending up. "We finally saw some rising home prices," S&P's David Blitzer said a few weeks ago as he reported the first monthly increase in the slow-moving S&P/Case-Shiller house-price data after seven months of declines.


The U.S. finally has moved beyond attention-grabbing predictions from housing "experts" that housing is bottoming. The numbers are now convincing, according to David Wessel on The News Hub. (Photo: Bloomberg News)

Nearly 10% more existing homes were sold in May than in the same month a year earlier, many purchased by investors who plan to rent them for now and sell them later, an important sign of an inflection point. In something of a surprise, the inventory of existing homes for sale has fallen close to the normal level of six months' worth despite all the foreclosed homes that lenders own. The fraction of homes that are vacant is at its lowest level since 2006.

The reduced inventory of unsold homes is key, says Mark Fleming, chief economist at CoreLogic, a housing data-analysis firm. For the past couple of years, house prices have risen in the spring and then slumped; the declining supply of houses for sale is reason to believe that won't happen again this year, he says.

Builders began work on 26% more single-family homes in May 2012 than the depressed levels of May 2011. The stock of unsold newly built homes is back to 2005 levels. In each of the past four quarters, housing construction has added to economic growth. In the first quarter, it accounted for 0.4 percentage points of the meager 1.9% growth rate.

"Even with the overall economy slowing," Wells Fargo Securities economists said, cautiously, in a note to clients, "the budding recovery in the housing market appears to be gradually gaining momentum."

Economists aren't always right, but on this at least they agree: A new Wall Street Journal survey of forecasters found 44 believe the housing market has reached its bottom; only three don't. (The full results of the Journal's July survey will be released at 2pm ET)

Housing is still far from healthy despite the Federal Reserve's efforts to resuscitate it by helping to push mortgage rates to extraordinary lows: 3.62% for a 30-year loan, according to Freddie Mac's latest survey. Single-family housing starts, though up, remain 60% below the 2002 pre-bubble pace. Americans' equity in homes is $2 trillion, or 25%, less than it was in 2002 and half what it was at the peak. More than one in every four mortgage borrowers still has a loan bigger than the value of the house, though rising home prices are reducing that fraction slowly.

Still, the upturn in housing is a milestone, a particularly welcome one amid a distressing dearth of jobs. For some time, housing has been one of the biggest causes of economic weakness. It has now—barely—moved to the plus side. "A little tail wind is a lot better than a headwind," says economist Chip Case, the "Case" in Case-Shiller.

From here on, housing is unlikely to drag the U.S. economy down further. It will instead reflect the strength or weakness of the overall economy: The more jobs, the more confident Americans are about keeping their jobs, the more they are willing to buy houses. "Manufacturing had led growth and construction had lagged," JPMorgan Chase economists said last week."Now the roles are reversed: Manufacturing growth has slowed as private construction comes to life."

Plenty could go wrong. The biggest threat is a large shadow inventory of unsold homes, homes which owners won't put on the market because they are underwater, homes that will be foreclosed eventually and homes owned by lenders. They have been trickling onto the market, slowed in part by government efforts to delay foreclosures; a flood could reverse the recent rise in prices. Or the still-dysfunctional mortgage market could get worse. Or overly zealous regulators or a post-election change in government policy could unsettle mortgage lenders or home buyers.

But the housing bust is over.


For full article click here

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The 3.8% Tax: Real Estate Scenarios & Examples


Beginning January 1, 2013, a new 3.8 percent tax on some investment income

will take effect. Since this new tax will affect some real estate transactions, it is

important for REALTORS® to clearly understand the tax and how it could impact

your clients. It’s a complicated tax, so you won’t be able to predict how it will

affect every buyer or seller.



To get you up to speed about this new tax legislation, the NATIONAL

ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® has developed this informational brochure.

On the following pages, you’ll read examples of different scenarios in which

this new tax — passed by Congress in 2010 with the intent of generating

an estimated $210 billion to help fund President Barack Obama’s health care

and Medicare overhaul plans — could be relevant to your clients.



Understand that this tax WILL NOT be imposed on all real estate transactions,

a common misconception. Rather, when the legislation becomes eff ective in 2013,

it may impose a 3.8% tax on some (but not all) income from interest, dividends,

rents (less expenses) and capital gains (less capital losses). Th e tax will fall only

on individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) above $200,000 and couples

fi ling a joint return with more than $250,000 AGI.

 New tax rate: 0.038%

Applies to:

·         Individuals with adjusted gross income (AGI) above $200,000

·         Couples filing a joint return with more than $250,000 AGI

Types of Income: Interest, dividends, rents (less expenses), capital gains

(less capital losses)

Formula: The new tax applies to the LESSER of

·         Investment income amount

·         Excess of AGI over the $200,000 or $250,000 amount

Example 1: Capital Gain: Sale of a Principal Residence

John and Mary sold their principal residence and realized a gain of $525,000. They have $325,000 Adjusted Gross Income (before adding taxable gain).

The tax applies as follows:

AGI Before Taxable Gain                                          $325,000

Gain on Sale of Residence                                          $525,000

Taxable Gain (Added to AGI)                                   $25,000 ($525,000 – $500,000)

New AGI                                                                    $350,000 ($325,000 + $25,000 taxable gain)

Excess of AGI over $250,000                                     $100,000 ($350,000 – $250,000)

Lesser Amount (Taxable)                                            $25,000 (Taxable gain)

Tax Due                                                                     $950 ($25,000 x 0.038)

NOTE: In this example, only $10,000 of their capital gain is subject to the 3.8% tax. If their gain had been smaller (less than $110,000), they would not pay the 3.8% tax because their AGI would be less than $250,000.

 Example 2: Capital Gain: Sale of a Non-Real Estate Asset

Barry and Michelle inherited stocks and bonds that they have decided to liquidate. The sale of these assets generates a capital gain of $120,000. Their AGI before the gain is $140,000.

The tax applies as follows:

AGI Before Capital Gain                                            $140,000

Gain on Sale of Stocks and Bonds                             $120,000

New AGI                                                                    $260,000

Excess of AGI over $250,000                                    $10,000 ($260,000 – $250,000)

Lesser Amount (Taxable)                                            $10,000 (AGI excess)

Tax Due                                                                     $380 ($10,000 x 0.038)

NOTE: In this example, only $10,000 of their capital gain is subject to the 3.8% tax. If their gain had been smaller (less than $110,000), they would not pay the 3.8% tax because their AGI would be less than $250,000.

 Example 3: Capital Gains, Interest and Dividends: Securities

Harry and Sally have substantial income from their securities investments. Their AGI before including that income is $190,000. Their investment income is listed below.

The tax applies as follows:

Interest Income (Bonds, CDs)                                    $60,000

Dividend Income                                                        $75,000

Capital Gains                                                              $10,000

Total Investment Income                                            $145,000

New AGI                                                                    $335,000 ($190,000 + $145,000)

Excess of AGI over $250,000                                     $85,000 ($335,000 – $250,000)

Lesser Amount (Taxable)                                            $85,000 (AGI excess)

Tax Due                                                                     $3,230 ($85,000 x 0.038)

 Example 4 Rental Income: Income Sources Including Real Estate Investment Income

Hank has a “day job” from which he earns $85,000 a year. He owns several small apartment units and receives gross rents of $130,000. He also has expenses related to that income.

The tax applies as follows:

AGI Before Rents                                                      $85,000

Gross Rents                                                                 $130,000

Expenses (Including depreciation and debt service)  $110,000

Net Rents                                                                    $20,000

New AGI                                                                    $105,000 ($85,000 + net rents)

Excess of AGI over $200,000                                     $0

Lesser Amount (Taxable                                             $0

Tax Due                                                                     $0

NOTE: Even though Hank’s combined gross rents and day job earnings exceed $200,000, he will not be subject to the 3.8% tax because investment income includes NET, not gross, rents. Capital Gains, Interest and

 Example 5: Rental Income: Rental Income as Sole Source of Earnings –Real Estate Trade or Business

Henrietta’s sole livelihood is derived from owning and operating commercial buildings. Thus, these assets are treated as business property and not as investment property. Her income stream is outlined below.

The tax applies as follows:

Gross Rent                                                                  $750,000

Expenses (Including depreciation and debt service)  $520,000

Net Rents                                                                    $230,000

New AGI (Net rental income)                                    $230,000

Excess of AGI over $200,000                                     $30,000

Lesser Amount (Taxable)                                            $0 (No investment income)

Tax Due                                                                     $0

Henrietta’s rental income is from a trade or business so it is NOT treated as investment income. Thus, she is NOT subject to the 3.8% investment income tax.

NOTE: The health care bill created a separate tax for high wage and self-employment business income. Thus, Henrietta IS subject to the new 0.9% (0.009) tax on earned income, because some portion of the net rents represents her compensation for operating the commercial buildings. See additional background below.

For this example, assume that the total net rents are her sole compensation. The tax

on this earned income would be as follows:

AGI                                                                             $230,000

Excess of AGI over $200,000                                     $30,000

Tax Due                                                                       $270 ($30,000 x .009)

NOTE: Depending on how Henrietta has organized her business (S Corp, LLC or sole proprietor), she might be able, for example, to pay herself $175,000, leaving the remaining $55,000 in the business in anticipation of making improvements the following year. In that case, because her AGI of $175,000 is less than $200,000, she will owe neither the unearned income tax (3.8%) nor the earned income tax (0.9%).

Example 6: Sale of a Second Home with No Rental Use (or no more than 14 days rental)

The Bridgers own a vacation home that they purchased for $275,000. They have never rented it to others. They sell it for $335,000. In the year of sale they also have earned income from other sources of $225,000.

The tax applies as follows:

Gain on Sale of Vacation Home                                  $60,000 ($335,000 – $275,000)

Income from Other Sources                                        $225,000

New AGI                                                                    $285,000 ($60,000 + $225,000)

Excess of AGI over $250,000                                     $35,000 ($285,000 – $250,000)

Capital Gain                                                                $60,000

Lesser Amount (Taxable)                                            $35,000 (AGI excess)

Tax Due                                                                     $1,330 ($35,000 x 0.038)

 NOTE: If the Bridgers rent the home for 14 or fewer days in the course of a year, the rental income is non-taxable and the results in the year of sale will be the same as shown above. If the rental period exceeds 14 days in any year, then the rental income (less expenses) will be taxable and AGI would include not only the capital gain, but also some amount that is depreciation recapture. (See next example.)

NOTE: If the second residence is SOLELY a rental property, it is treated as an investment property. See examples 7 and 8.

 Example 7: Sale of an Inherited Investment Property (Residential or Commercial)

In 2010, Ethan inherited a four-plex investment property from his great aunt. She had used it for many years as an investment rental property in San Francisco. At the time of her death, the adjusted basis of the property was $10,000. During her period of ownership, she had taken $240,000 of depreciation deductions on it. Its fair market value was $900,000 when she died. Because there was no estate tax for 2010 and because carryover basis was in effect, Ethan’s basis in the inherited property is also $10,000. The prior depreciation allowances carry over to him, as well. He continues to use the property as an investment rental property.

Ethan later sells the property for $1.2 million. He is single and reports Schedule C self-employment income of $180,000.

The tax applies as follows:

Gain on Sale                                                                $1,190,000 ($1.2 million – $10,000)

Depreciation Recapture                                              $240,000 (From great aunt)

Depreciation Recapture                                              $2,200 (Ethan — approximate)

Total Gain                                                                   $1,432,200 ($1.19 million + total depreciation recapture)

Schedule C Income                                                     $180,000

New AGI                                                                    $1,612,200 (Gain + Schedule C)

Excess over $200,000                                                 $1,412,200

Lesser Amount (Taxable                                             $1,412,200 (AGI excess)

Tax Due                                                                     $53,664 ($1,412,200 x 0.038)

NOTE: If Ethan had inherited the property in a year when stepped-up basis was in effect, his basis would have been $900,000. The capital gain in this example would have been only $300,000. Ethan would not have been responsible for his great aunt’s depreciation recapture amount. His own depreciation recapture amount would have been based on depreciation allowances claimed on a basis of $900,000 rather than $10,000. Thus, while he would still have been liable for the 3.8% tax, the amount of tax would be substantially smaller.

 Example 8: Purchase and Sale of Investment Property (Residential or Commercial)

Ethan has purchased an investment property for $900,000. During his period of ownership, he takes $230,000 in depreciation deductions. He has also made some improvements to the property. At the time of sale, his adjusted basis in the property is $760,000. He subsequently sells the property for $1.2 million. In the year of sale, he is single and reports self-employment income of $315,000.

The tax applies as follows:

Gain on Sale                                                                $440,000 ($1.2 million less adjusted basis of $760,000)

Depreciation Recapture                                              $230,000

Total Gain                                                                   $670,000 (Gain on sale plus depreciation recapture)

Schedule C Income                                                     $315,000

New AGI                                                                    $985,000 ($315,000 + $670,000)

Excess AGI over $200,000                                         $785,000 ($985,000 – $200,000)

Lesser Amount (Taxable)                                            $670,000 (Capital gain)

Tax Due                                                                     $25,460 ($670,000 x 0.038)

 NOTE: The statute provides no guidance as to whether Ethan can defer the 3.8% tax by entering into a like-kind exchange when he sells the property. This question may be addressed in regulations at a later time, but for the present is not resolved.

 Additional Information

This new tax was never introduced, discussed or reviewed until just hours before the fi nal debate on the massive health care legislation began. That legislation was enacted on March 23, 2010, more than a year after the health care debate began. This new tax was put forward after Congress was unable to agree on changes to current law that were sufficient to pay for the proposed changes to the Medicare program and increased subsidies to individuals and businesses.

The new tax raises more than $210 billion (over 10 years), representing more than half of the total new expenditures in the health care reform package. NAR expressed its strongest possible objections, but the legislation passed on a largely party line vote.

The new tax is sometimes called a “Medicare tax” because the proceeds from it are to be dedicated to the Medicare Trust Fund. Th at Fund will run dry in only a few more years, so this tax is a means of extending its life.

A second new tax, also dedicated to Medicare funding, is imposed on the so-called “earned” income of higher income individuals. This earned income tax has a much lower rate of 0.9% (0.009). Like the tax described in this brochure, this additional or alternative tax is based on adjusted gross income thresholds of $200,000 for an individual and $250,000 on a joint return. Like the 3.8% tax, this 0.9% tax is imposed only on the excess of earned income above the threshold amounts. An example and some analysis of this tax is presented in Example 5 of this brochure.

Another way of thinking about these new taxes is to think of the 3.8% tax as being imposed on a portion of the money that you make on your money — your capital (sometimes referred to as “unearned income”). The 0.9% tax is imposed on a portion of the money you make on your labor — your salary, wages, commission and similar income related to earning a livelihood.


Learn more about Government affairs: WWW.REALTOR.ORG/GOVERNMENT_AFFAIRS

Thursday, August 2, 2012

U.S. housing market is recovering, home prices rose for the second straight month

In a sign that the U.S. housing market is recovering, home prices rose for the second straight month in May, according to an industry report issued Tuesday.

Home prices climbed 2.2% compared with a month earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index. Prices are still off 0.7% compared with May 2011, but that's the lowest year-over-year decline in 18 months, according to David Blitzer, a spokesman for S&P.

The report gave support for industry experts who have been saying that the long-awaited housing market recovery is underway. But Blitzer sounded a note of caution.

"We need to remember that spring and early summer are seasonally strong buying months so this trend must continue throughout the summer and into the fall," he said.

Adjusted for seasonal effect, the price gain shrank to 0.9%, but that's still a strong increase.

For full article click here

Fannie Mae: Optimism on Homeownership Improves in June


Americans’ attitudes towards the housing market are continuing to improve, despite stalling optimism about the economy and personal finances, according to a monthly survey by Fannie Mae.
The mortgage-finance company’s survey of 1,001 Americans last month found that 73% believe it is a good time to buy a home, edging up from 72% of the respondents in May. Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who said it is a good time to sell remained at 15%.
“Although this positive trend may be short-lived if the general economy falters, one might ask whether consumers are increasingly seeing the current environment as a unique opportunity to buy a home while home prices remain depressed, rental costs are increasing, and interest rates are near historic lows,” Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan said.
The company said 37% expect home-mortgage rates to rise over the next year, a decrease from the prior month when 41% thought so. Meanwhile, 35% think home prices will go up in the next 12 months, the highest level since the survey’s inception.
Consumers predict, on average, that home prices will increase 2% over the next 12 months, up from 1.4% in May.
The percentage of respondents who said they would buy rose to 69% from 63% in May–also the highest level since the survey began–while respondents who said they would rent if they were going to move decreased to 27% from 32%, the lowest level recorded since the survey began.

For full article click here.