Tuesday, April 30, 2013

100% Business -- That's the RE/MAX Top Realty way!

The RE/MAX Top Realty Way

We are 100% business people serving buyers and sellers of real estate.  We take our responsibility very seriously, as we know that our clients and customers are business people, too, and the business of their real estate investments is not taken lightly.

There.  I've said it.  I enjoy saying what I think.  So yesterday, some agent came into our offices looking for a RE/MAX agent from another company.  Yes, she was in the wrong place.  (This is the same agent who hasn't returned my text messages for a couple of weeks.)  But she wanders into the wrong place and sent me a text message stating that our office was "heavy."  Yes, it is.  We are highly productive and business-oriented.  (I think she meant to be derogatory, but I didn't take it as such.  I thought it a compliment!)

As I woke up this morning, I remembered the last time I saw a group of agents from this office with their team leader . . . it was at a "Broker Open House" in Silvercreek.  The team leader was dressed like a soccer referee (with black striped shirt) and a whistle.  Apparently, they'd had "skit day" that morning at their office meeting before coming to the Open House.   So, I'm assuming this is what she meant by stating that our office is "heavy."

Yeah.  It is.  We do business . . . never had a "skit day."  (It's no wonder our agents outsell their agents by more than 2 to 1, year-after-year.)

[Looking for a 100% productivity-oriented environment in which to grow your business?  
Visit www.BecomeATopAgent.com . . . and call me.]   By Sam Ferreri

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cut Refinancing Expenses

iStock_000016148905XSmall(er).jpgEvery single day, homeowners who are excited about lowering their rate have a tendency to ignore the refinancing costs because they’re being rolled back into the new mortgage. If the payment is lower than what they’re currently paying and there’s no money out of pocket, it seems like a good deal.

Refinancing your home because a lower rate is available is one thing but the closing costs associated with that new loan could add several thousand dollars to your mortgage balance. By following some of the suggestions listed below, you may be able to reduce the expense to refinance.

•  Tell the lender up-front that you want to have the loan quoted with minimal closing costs.
•  Check with your existing lender to see if the rate and closing costs might be cheaper.
•  If you’re refinancing a FHA or VA loan, consider the streamline refinance.
•  Shop around with other lenders and compare rate and closing costs.
•  Credit unions may have lower closing costs because they are generally loaning deposits and their cost of funds is less.
•  Reducing the loan-to-value so that mortgage insurance is not required will reduce expenses.
•  Ask if the lender can use an AVM, automated valuation model, instead of an appraisal.
•  You may not need a new survey if no changes have been made.
•  There may be a discount on the mortgagee’s title policy available on a refinance.
•  Points on refinancing, unlike purchase, are ratably deductible over the life of the loan.
•  Consider a 15 year loan. If you can afford the higher payments, you can expect a lower interest rate than a 30 year loan and obviously, it will build equity faster and pay off in half the time.

A lender must provide you a list of the fees involved with making the loan within 3 days of making a loan application in the form of a Good Faith Estimate. Every dollar counts and they belong to you.


Postcards in your mailbox . . . Do you read them?

Postcards in Pearland?

By Sam Ferreri        

It's no secret that I consistently mail out lots of postcards to the Pearland marketplace to keep the "Pearland Sam" brand in the minds of consumers when they need a Realtor.  Consequently, customers tell me that "they see me everywhere."

But I wonder . . . does anyone really read those postcards?  Or do they even look at the pictures?  Or do they simply get "weeded out" with the big packages of bulk mail that seems to appear in everybody's mailbox on a daily basis?

So....do you read them?  Do you like them/hate them?  Do you use direct mail in your marketing?  Here is a sample of an old postcard that we mailed to our marketplace.  Did you get one?                                                  

I guess I'm feeling insecure!  The cost to continually keep these postcards "going" is climbing . . . and there are less and less homes for sale in the market.  So . . . help me justify this cost of doing business!  Read the postcards and say, "Sam, keep 'em coming!" . . .  or tell me, "Sam . . . stop 'em!"

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Websites -- Pretty or Useful, which is best?

LeadStreet Sam asks a question . . . will you comment?

So I've been looking into a new tool offered by some folks in Michigan to help LeadStreet users make their websites prettier.  Their offer includes SEO and quite a few other features, for a low monthly fee.  It sounds great!  And they definitely have some pretty designs.

However, I caught the "tail-end" of the video presentation that stated that you give up access to your site builder, should you sign up for the service.  Which seems to add a limitation to the functionality of the website.  Also, as I've traveled around the country, agents WANT a "pretty" option.

My contention, however, has been that "it's not how pretty the site is, but what it's content is."  The unique flexibility of the LeadStreet site builder allows the user to customize whatever he/she wants to say, and present it to the public.  But, as the argument goes, Realtors are not web masters!

So . . . my question:  which is better, "pretty" or "useful?"  And I'm only talking about websites here!  Your comments will be taken seriously.  Thanks.  By Sam Ferreri

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Selling Homes in Pearland . . . and Houston . . . wow!

Houston Real Estate - Pearland Real Estate

I attended a Market Update on Thursday, presented by my banking partners at Allegiance Bank.  They hired a company named "MetroStudy" to do a complete study of the Houston job and real estate market.  According to their study, our present growth rate in the 7-county Greater Houston Area is huge!  In fact, at this rate, our population will double in only 6 years! 

That is an unbelievable amount of people.  How will our infrastructure handle it?  I mean, we can't drive around now, except at night!  So . . . as for being a Realtor, our future looks bright! 

The bank went on to project that our economy will be in a "low interest rate environment" for at least 7 more years!  So, you better invest in real estate, not CD's!  Call me at 832-200-5656 to get started. 
By Sam Ferreri

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Shifting Debt to Tax Deductible

shift debt.pngThe Mortgage Interest Deduction is available to homeowners for up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt on the combination of their first and second home.  They can also deduct interest on up to an additional $100,000 of Home Equity debt.

While Acquisition Debt is used to buy, build or improve a principal residence, the Home Equity Debt can be used for any purpose.  It can be used for educational or medical expenses, to purchase a personal car or boat, consolidate debts or pay off credit cards.

A homeowner with $15,000 of credit card debt at 19% and sufficient equity in their home could replace it with a home equity loan at much lower interest rate. Not only would the interest rate on the home equity loan be about 1/3 of the rate paid on the credit card, it’s would now be tax deductible.

If the taxpayer was in the 28% bracket, the net interest on a 6.5% loan would be 4.68% after tax benefits are considered.
Shifting personal debt to Home Equity debt can result in an interest deduction and probably, a lower interest rate. For more information see IRS Publication 936 page 10 and consult your tax professional.

Monday, April 15, 2013

When to Sell the Temporary Rental

Temporary Rental2.pngSome homeowners, who were not able to sell during the recession, chose to rent their homes instead.  In some cases, they didn't need to sell their home at the depressed prices and opted to rent it until the market recovered.

It's a valid strategy but there are time restrictions that could have serious tax implications for some homeowners.

The section 121 exclusion for gain in a principal residence requires that the home is owned and used as a main home for at least two years during the five year period ending on the date of the sale.  This allows a homeowner to rent their home for up to three years and still have some part of the exclusion available.

The sale of a home with a $200,000 gain that qualifies as a principal residence would result in no tax being paid by the owner.  Comparably, a rental property with the same gain could have a $30,000 or higher tax liability depending on the length of ownership and tax brackets of the investor.

The housing market has dramatically improved in the last year.  If you have a gain in a home that has been your principal residence and it has been rented less than three years, you might want to consider selling it while you qualify for the exclusion.

If you are considering a sale on your principal residence that has been rented, consult with your tax professional for advice on your specific situation.  For additional information, see IRS Publication 523.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Boomerang Buyers

Waiting periods.pngIt's estimated that 10% of the homes sold in 2013 will be to buyers who lost a home in the past five years.  Approximately 500,000 buyers who may have thought they wouldn't own a home anytime in the near future will be homeowners again.

It's estimated that several million of these previous homeowners will purchase again in the next eight years.  This kind of activity will contribute significantly to the housing recovery.

Some people thought that the housing crisis would cause a shift in values placed on owning a home but the boomerang buyers definitely don't support that theory.  Having a home of your own, where you can raise your family, share with your friends and feel safe and secure is still part of the American Dream.

The rising rents, increasing prices and low, low mortgage rates are also influencing buyers into the market.  In many cases, it is cheaper to own that to rent.

All new buyers, including those who have experienced foreclosures or bankruptcies, must have good credit history and the ability to repay the loan.  It just may not take as long to reestablish the credit as some would-be buyers might have thought.

Read more about Bidding Wars This Spring, Spring's Wild Card and Boomerang Buyers.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bunch Your Taxes and Save

iStock_000016195030XSmall(er).jpgOne of the drawbacks to low mortgage rates is that the total interest and property taxes paid for the year may be lower than the standard deduction.  A little planning might be able to help you at least every other year.

Most homeowners know they can deduct their qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on their Schedule A of their 1040 tax return or to take the standard deduction if it is greater.  See Your Deduction...Your Choice.

Deductions are taken in the year that they're actually paid.  If a homeowner paid their 2012 property taxes in 2013, they would not be deductible on their 2012 tax return.  Then, if the 2013 property taxes were paid in 2013, both the 2012 and 2013 taxes could be deducted on the 2013 Schedule A.

By delaying the payment of the 2012 taxes until 2013, the combination of the 2012 and 2013 taxes might exceed the 2013 standard deduction and provide a higher deduction. 

Other Schedule A expenses such as charitable contributions and medical expenses may be bunched also.  From a practical standpoint, since most mortgage payments are due monthly, the mortgage interest would not be bunched.

This information should be discussed with your tax advisor to see how it might apply to your individual situation.  The key is you must be aware of the strategy early to be able to use it.