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Real Estate Provisions in “Fiscal Cliff” Bill

On Jan. 1 both the Senate and House passed H.R. 8 legislation to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 2.

Below is a summary of real estate related provisions in the bill:

Real Estate Tax Extenders

  • Mortgage Cancellation Relief is extended for one year to Jan. 1, 2014
  • Deduction for Mortgage Insurance Premiums for filers making below $110,000 is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012
  • 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements on commercial properties is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012
  • 10 percent tax credit (up to $500) for homeowners for energy improvements to existing homes is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012

Permanent Repeal of Pease Limitations for 99% of Taxpayers

Under the agreement so called “Pease Limitations” that reduce the value of itemized deductions are permanently repealed for most taxpayers but will be reinstituted for high income filers.  These limitations will only apply to individuals earning more than $250,000 and joint filers earning above $300,000.  These thresholds have been increased and are indexed for inflation and will rise over time.  Under the formula, the amount of adjusted gross income above the threshold is multiplied by three percent.  That amount is then used to reduce the total value of the filer’s itemized deductions.  The total amount of reduction cannot exceed 80 percent of the filer’s itemized deductions.

These limits were first enacted in 1990 (named for the Ohio Congressman Don Pease who came up with the idea) and continued throughout the Clinton years.  They were gradually phased out as a result of the 2001 tax cuts and were completely eliminated in 2010-2012.  Had we gone over the fiscal cliff, Pease limitations would have been reinstituted on all filers starting at $174,450 of adjusted gross income. 

Capital Gains

Capital Gains rate stays at 15 percent for those in the top rate of $400,000 (individual) and $450,000 (joint) return.  After that, any gains above those amounts will be taxed at 20 percent.  The $250,000/$500,000 exclusion for sale of principal residence remains in place.

Estate Tax

The first $5 million dollars in individual estates and $10 million for family estates are now exempted from the estate tax.  After that the rate will be 40 percent, up from 35 percent.  The exemption amounts are indexed for inflation.

  

 

What is a Good Real Estate Investment?

Posted: 13 Jan 2012 02:54 PM PST

A “good real estate investment” can mean different things to different people. For this article, the definition of a good real estate investment is:

A real estate ownership interest, whether a personal residence or rental property, that increases one’s net wealth by a fair rate of return on their invested cash equity; for the corresponding amount of risk they are taking by owning a relatively high risk asset.

What that means is that if you are going to put your invested cash equity into real estate, your net worth should improve by a greater amount than if you invested in a similarly risky asset. And “invested cash equity” isn’t the property price; it is how much cash you took from your bank account to acquire the property minus down payment, plus closing costs, plus rehabilitation costs.

Realize a lot of things can go wrong with real estate ownership, so you had better get a fairly high return on your invested cash equity for it to be a “good deal”. So you ask, how would one figure that out?

For investment properties

Your returns are part cash flows and part appreciation in value. For example, if your property rental income minus expenses produced $250 per month positive ($3,000 per year); and your invested cash equity was $50,000, that’s a cash on cash return of 6.00% ($3,000/$50,000). And that is a pretty darn good deal in real estate.

 

To add to that, let’s say you project net appreciation in value contributing an extra 1.0% or 2.0% return per year (after subtracting your projected estimated costs of capital repairs and improvements). Summing the cash flows and net appreciation could equal about a 8% to 10%+ projected return per year on a long term basis; and if you achieve those numbers….. that is a good real estate investment!

Some investment properties don’t cut it! Most fancy condos or beach houses, where the net rental income is very low compared to the purchase price, usually have projected negative cash on cash returns. So if you buy a fancy property with negative (4.0%) cash on cash returns, even if it appreciates 2.0% per year, you are typically at a 0.0%, or worse, return on your equity cash investment. And that isn’t a deal most experienced investors would take.

This past blog — “Investing in Real Estate – What is a “Good Deal?” has more information on the specific mechanics of projecting your returns.

For personal residences

You will also be putting down a large amount of cash equity and the calculations are really a little more complicated and difficult because you need to look at how much you are paying in housing expense versus how much that amount would be if you were just renting someone else’s property. So the overall question again is, “Is your wealth going to improve by owning the property?”

Some general guidance herein. As a general rule, if you are not planning to own it for at least five years you will most likely not be adding to your wealth. Any appreciation in value will not compensate for the 8.0% to 10.0% transaction costs on the buying and selling of your property. And even worse, the monthly ownership expense is usually higher than if you just rented a similar property. Therefore, if you don’t plan to own the property a long time, and the longer the better, you will probably do better renting and leaving the hassles and costs of ownership to a landlord.

So a good real estate investment is really one that will increase your net worth over time. The longer you own it, the better the chances for that appreciation in value and wealth building.

As proof positive on this, find someone who has owned real estate for 20, 30, 40 years and ask them what is a good real estate investment? It is generally easy to find them, they are retired, living comfortably, and usually happy to tell you about the properties they bought decades ago!

Leonard Baron, MBA, CPA, is a San Diego State University Lecturer, a Zillow Blogger, the author of several books including “Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101 – A Smarter Way to Buy Real Estate”, and loves kicking the tires of a good piece of dirt! See more at ProfessorBaron.com.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

 

 

 

In these economic times: 

Savings accounts at the bank are not paying a lot of interest.  Stocks and bonds and mutual funds are going up and down, but the average person doesn't always do very well.  The dollar is not worth what it was a few years ago.  If a person has funds in their pocket they have to be wondering what to do with them.

This is one of the reasons there are so many bargain hunters in the market right now.  With patience, a person has a chance of making smart purchase.  In some cases this can mean buying below market price.  It can be property that lends itself to building some sweat equity.  It could be that the area has great demand for rentals and the property investment, costs, maintenance, tax, insurance, and other expenses will yield a Cap Rate of at least 10. 

The tax credits for first time home buyers has expired.  Unemployment is at an all time high.  Even with mortgage interest rates so low credit requirements have increased.  There are still foreclosures that are creating a demand for rental property.  This could be a good market to invest in rental property.  Remember your investment should be making you money with cash flow, appreciation, and the depreciation on your income tax.

When you have been depreciating your investment property for seven years or more it is possible that the tax basis is limiting your tax benefit.  If you can no longer raise rents, or the neighborhood has no chance of future appreciation it could be time for you to look at doing a 1031 exchange to update and refresh your rental portfolio.

  

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