The more you know before buying a home, the less scary the entire process will appear to you. Here are my top ten tips with information you should know when buying a home.
1. Pride of Ownership
Pride of ownership is the number one reason why people yearn to own their home. It means you can paint the walls any color you desire, turn up the volume on your CD player, attach permanent fixtures and decorate your home according to your own taste. Home ownership gives you and your family a sense of stability and security. It's making an investment in your future.
Although real estate moves in cycles, sometimes up, sometimes down, over the years, real estate has consistently appreciated. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight tracks the movements of single family home values across the country. Its House Price Index breaks down the changes by region and metropolitan area. Many people view their home investment as a hedge against inflation.
3. Mortgage Interest Deductions
Home ownership is a superb tax shelter and our tax rates favor homeowners. As long as your mortgage balance is smaller than the price of your home, mortgage interest is fully deductible on your tax return. Interest is the largest component of your mortgage payment.
4. Property Tax Deductions
IRS Publication 530 contains tax information for first-time home buyers. Real estate property taxes paid for a first home and a vacation home are fully deductible for income tax purposes. In California, the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 established the amount of assessed value after property changes hands and limited property tax increases to 2% per year or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
5. Capital Gain Exclusion
As long as you have lived in your home for two of the past five years, you can exclude up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a married couple of profit from capital gains. You do not have to buy a replacement home or move up. There is no age restriction, and the "over-55" rule does not apply. You can exclude the above thresholds from taxes every 24 months, which means you could sell every two years and pocket your profit--subject to limitation--free from taxation.
6. Preferential Tax Treatment
If you receive more profit than the allowable exclusion upon sale of your home, that profit will be considered a capital asset as long as you owned your home for more than one year. Capital assets receive preferential tax treatment.
7. Morgage Reduction Builds Equity
Each month, part of your monthly payment is applied to the principal balance of your loan, which reduces your obligation. The way amortization works, the principal portion of your principal and interest payment increases slightly every month. It is lowest on your first payment and highest on your last payment. On average, each $100,000 of a mortgage will reduce in balance the first year by about $500 in principal, bringing that balance at the end of your first 12 months to $99,500.
8. Equity Loans
Consumers who carry credit card balances cannot deduct the interest paid, which can cost as much as 18% to 22%. Equity loan interest is often much less and it is deductible. For many home owners, it makes sense to pay off this kind of debt with a home equity loan. Consumers can borrow against a home's equity for a variety of reasons such as home improvement, college, medical or starting a new business. Some state laws restrict home equity loans.
9. It Is Very Important To Buy A Home That Will Go Up In Value.
Slow, steady home appreciation has been the rule over most of the nation’s history, and many real estate investors became quite wealthy in that environment. They did so by very carefully analyzing the appreciation potential of their investment, and they invested for the long term. You should too. Even if you plan on living in your home just a few years, you will want it to have gone up in value when you put it back on the market.
10. Before house hunting, get pre-approved.
Getting pre-approved will you save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can't afford and put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Not to be confused with pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history.