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Picture This!

by The Colorado Springs Group™

Listing photos may be one of the most important marketing efforts that lead to a potential buyer.

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Nearly, all buyers use the Internet during the home search process. They usually start looking at homes online before they contact an agent. It’s far more efficient to screen properties by looking at the pictures that have been posted than to make appointments with each homeowner, drive all over town and waste a lot of time looking at homes that would never meet a buyer’s criteria.

  • There needs to be enough pictures of a property to adequately represent the home; most websites allow for at least 24 and more may be needed if it is a large home.
  • Take horizontal shots to accommodate the format of most listing websites.
  • The pictures should be well-lit so that it is easy to see all of the features of the room. Natural light is preferred over the limitations of flash.
  • They should be taken with a wide-angle lens so that you can see the majority of the room in one picture.
  • Large rooms can be taken from different angles to give the buyers a different perspective.
  • Rooms should be set if not staged prior to taking the pictures so they will give the buyer an idea of what the room might look like with their own things in it.
  • Arrange pictures in website to help buyers visualize the floorplan as if walking through it.
  • Think about using a tripod; professionals do to absolutely hold the camera still.
  • They should definitely not be “photoshopped” to modify factual elements like removing power lines.

Everyone occasionally takes a great picture but it doesn’t make them a photographer. Since the photography can be one of the most important marketing efforts, consider using a professional photographer to show the home to its best advantage.

The Right Questions Are Key

by The Colorado Springs Group™

Asking the right questions will lead to the answers that help you determine which agent to use for one of the largest investments that most people make…the purchase or sale of their home.

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Rudyard Kipling wrote the verse “I keep six serving men, they taught me all I knew; their names were what and why and when and how and where and who.” Prefacing your questions with one of these words can help you get the information you need to make a good decision about the REALTOR® you use.

  • How long have you been selling homes and is this your full-time job?
  • What designations or other credentials do you have?
  • How many homes did you and your company sell last year?
  • What is your average market time compared to MLS and your top competitors?
  • What is your sales price to list price ratio?
  • When will you report to me on the progress of my transaction?
  • Who can you recommend for service providers like mortgage, inspections, repairs and maintenance?
  • Why do you want to work with me?
  • Where are the biggest opportunities to expose my home to the largest market?

Finding the right person to represent you is a little like the person who ordered a lobster dinner at a restaurant. When the waiter brought out the meal, the lobster only had one claw. The customer asked why it only had one claw and the waiter said: “I don’t know; I guess it was in a fight.” The customer looked at him and said: “then, bring me the lobster who won.”

Opportunity Can Disappear

by The Colorado Springs Group™

In the last few years, some people who were unable to sell their homes, rented them instead. The market has improved in most places and the home may easily sell now and possibly, for a higher price.

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Even though the opportunity to sell in the near future might not change, there could be another opportunity that could quickly disappear for some homeowners.

Most homeowners are aware that there is a capital gain exclusion on the profits of a principal residence of up to $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. The rule requires that you must own and use the home as your principal residence for two out of the last five years.

A homeowner can rent their home for up to three years and still be eligible for the exclusion. As an example, if they had owned and lived in it for two years and then rented it for two and a half years, they would need to sell and close the transaction before the remaining six months expired.

If there was a $200,000 profit in the home that didn’t qualify for the exclusion, a 15% long-term capital gain tax of $30,000 could become due depending on the tax bracket of the owner. With some careful planning, the tax could be avoided. Awareness of the time frames and the right team of tax and real estate professionals could save a considerable amount of the homeowner’s equity.

Choose a Lower Tax Rate

by The Colorado Springs Group™

During campaign season, it is not unusual to hear a candidate criticized because they make a lot of money but pay little in income tax. While it might not seem fair, taxpayers are allowed to arrange their affairs so that they minimize the amount of tax paid.

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Salary, wages and commissions, along with interest and dividends are taxed at ordinary income rates which can range from 10% to 39.6%. However, capital gains rates, for property held more than 12 months, are much lower ranging from 0% to 20%. Taxpayers in the 25-35% brackets pay LTCG rates of 15%.

The profit on rental property enjoys the lower long-term capital gains rates as compared to the profit on “flipped” property which is taxed at ordinary income rates.

Investments in rental homes generate income, provide depreciation for tax shelter, have equity build-up due to the amortizing loan, leveraged growth due to the borrowed funds and appreciation. The profits could be considerably higher than alternative investments and the profits taxed at lower rates.

The advantage is available to people who understand the tax laws and choose to arrange their activities so they pay a minimal amount of tax. The advantage is available to all taxpayers, not just the rich. In fact, implementing these types of strategies could lead to an increase in wealth.

Increase Your Marketability

by The Colorado Springs Group™

The seller has three tools available to affect the marketability of their home: price, condition and terms. Price is the easiest to adjust for the competing properties, amount of inventory or market conditions. However, lowering the price is not necessarily the best decision when trying to maximize the proceeds of sale.

If a home is in poor or outdated condition, updating can be done to make it show favorably with other homes that are currently on the market. Sometimes, sellers rationalize not doing the work by saying they believe the buyers would rather make their own choices. The truth is that most buyers are using all their resources to get into the home and will have to live in its present condition until they can save enough to make the changes they want.

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Another reason to go ahead and invest the money and effort into improving the condition is that it is difficult for buyers to imagine the home any other way than its current condition. When comparing one home to another, buyers will sometimes refer to a home as the “stinky house” or the “old kitchen” which may put it at a disadvantage.

While price and condition are the main things that control the marketability, terms can be equally effective. Terms relate to financial considerations made by the seller to induce a buyer to make a decision to purchase their home.

Seller-paid points or closing costs, interest rate buy downs and owner-financing are examples of terms that may increase the marketability of a home because of the additional benefits they offer to buyers.

An example could be that a seller will carry a 10% second lien so that the buyer can get an 80% loan and avoid the expense of mortgage insurance. The seller gets most of their equity plus a fair interest rate on the loan that doesn’t have to be tied up for 30 years like the first mortgage.

Increasing the marketability of your home is a great conversation to have with your real estate professional especially to help you get the highest price in the shortest time with the fewest problems. Just be aware that not all agents may be as creative as some.

Your Tenants Will Send Your Kids to College

by The Colorado Springs Group™

Parents, with children getting closer and closer to entering college, may also be feeling stress because they haven’t saved enough for tuition and other expenses. It’s estimated that the average cost for the 2015-16 school year is $32,405 for private colleges, $9,410 for state residents of public colleges and $23,893 for out-of-state residents.

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If you started saving the year your child was born, you’d have to save $4,608 per year for 18 years at 5% to accumulate $129,620. If you waited until they were 10 years old, you’d have to save $13,574 per year to have the right amount. Saving enough can be difficult if you have a lot of time but if you only have a short time to meet your goals, it can seem impossible.

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Student debt is one way to handle the tuition but many parents are reluctant to saddle their children with the obligation. Currently, there is more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt to 40 million borrowers with an average balance of $29,000. Some economists suggest that this debt is delaying would-be buyers from making their first home purchases.

There is another way to pay for the education by making an investment in a rental property. Rents are continuing to rise, homes in owner-occupied neighborhoods are appreciating and the leverage due to borrowed funds can be a huge help in building the equity to pay the tuition.

Rent the home and maintain its condition over the years. As the loan amortizes and the value increases, the equity will grow. When your student is ready to start college, you'll actually have several options.

You can sell the property; pay the tax on the gain at the reduced capital gains rate and fund the education. Another option would be to refinance and take the proceeds to pay for the tuition. This would allow you to continue to own the asset but would free your equity. Under current tax laws, it is a non-taxable event.

In effect, your tenants are paying to send your kids to college.

The Obvious Alternative Investment

by The Colorado Springs Group™

Rental homes can be a natural alternative investment choice for homeowners because they are already familiar with houses. Maintenance on a rental is not that much different than on your personal home. The same plumbers, painters and other workmen can be used to make repairs.

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Single family homes offer an investor high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for long terms on appreciating assets with defined tax advantages and more control than other investments.

  1. High loan-to-value mortgages – most investments require that you pay cash but rental properties can be purchased with 20% down payment.
  2. Fixed interest rates – most commercial loans are based on a floating rate such as prime interest plus one or two percent compared to real estate loans as fixed rates for the term.
  3. Long terms – commercial loans are generally short-term such as six months or a year with the possibility of being renewed for another six months or a year unlike real estate where a 30-year mortgage is commonplace.
  4. Appreciating assets – real estate has a long-term history of going up in value.
  5. Defined tax advantages – many investments are taxed as ordinary income but rental real estate enjoys a non-cash deduction called cost recovery, the profits from sale are taxed at lower long-term capital gains rates or may be eligible for a tax-deferred exchange.
  6. Control – rental homes don’t require partners and afford the investor more options than investing in mutual funds and other traditional investments.

The demand for good rentals is strong and the rents continue to go up in most markets.  There are people who choose not to buy or cannot buy a home who would prefer to live in a single family home rather than an apartment.

7 Out of 50 Could Save Money

by The Colorado Springs Group™

It is estimated that seven million out of 50 million homeowners could save money by refinancing their existing mortgages. Obviously, if the replacement mortgage has a lower rate than your existing one, you will save money.

If you bought a home before 2011 and are paying mortgage insurance, you should investigate refinancing to eliminate that requirement. Even if you don’t get a lower interest rate, the savings could amount to hundreds of dollars a month.

If a home you purchased since 2011 has appreciated enough, it could easily justify refinancing to eliminate the required mortgage insurance. Most loans don’t require mortgage insurance if the loan-to-value is 80% or less. There are some programs for 90% mortgages that don’t require mortgage insurance. It is certainly worth investigating with a trusted mortgage professional.

Continuing to pay mortgage insurance that could be eliminated is like having a broken cell phone and continuing to make the monthly payments for something you can’t use and don’t need.

If your current mortgage is several years old, instead of getting a new 30 year mortgage, you might consider a 15-year term. The money you save with a lower interest rate could help you to retire your loan in a shorter time so that your home would be paid for.

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You May Never Stop Paying for Some Improvements

by The Colorado Springs Group™

 

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You've saved the money and are ready to pay cash to build a new pool for your home.  However, that's just the beginning of your soon to be increased expenses which will include maintenance, higher utilities and higher taxes.

 

Homeowners obviously benefit by a larger equity when their home increases in value due to appreciation.   A not-so-obvious effect that will also more than likely take place is that their property taxes will increase.  In most cases, a property's assessed value is generally tied to market value to calculate the property taxes based on the tax rate for that year.

Similarly, a homeowner can affect the value of their home by making capital improvements.  Some small items may never be recognized by the taxing authority but items that require a permit, certainly are brought to their attention.  Items such as a fence, roof, remodeling, windows, new rooms or swimming pools can easily increase the assessed value of a property.

Most states have an established time frame in which to challenge the current tax assessment for that year.  The process is relatively simple and doesn't require professional representation.  It generally involves showing that there is an error which has overstated the value or that current comparable sales indicate a lower value.

If you'd like more information or need the comparable sales data, please let us know.  We would be happy to help you investigate the possibility of lowering your property taxes.

Your Home May Be Worth a Lot More Than You Think

by The Colorado Springs Group™

Real estate lost a lot of value during the recession but most areas have rebounded considerably.  In some cases, the homes are worth more than they were before the housing bubble burst.

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The dynamics are classic for this type of market: inventories are low, mortgage rates are low and demand is high.  All price ranges are on the rise with some at an even higher rate because the short supply is causing competition among buyers.

Another reason many homeowners' may have more equity is simply not staying current with what is going on in the market.  In a recent FNMA study, it indicates that 23% of owners believe they have negative equity in their home when actually, it is 9%.  37% believe they have greater than 20% equity in their home when actually 69% of homeowners do.

Even if you're not planning to sell your home, knowing the value helps you understand your financial position better.  Home equity debt up to a $100,000 limit is tax deductible and can be used for any purpose.  Owner's commonly refinance to eliminate mortgage insurance, consolidate mortgages, pay off higher interest rate debt like credit cards or student loans or to buy out an ex-spouse's equity.

Be aware that an automated value model like Zillow Zestimates uses algorithms to determine a price and while it might be in the ballpark, AVM results may only be accurate about 20% of the time.  A comparable marketing analysis or broker's price opinion will be more accurate due the subjective approach that will be used by an agent with personal experience in the area.  An agent will consider factors like condition, floorplan, marketability and demand.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 112

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The Colorado Springs Group™
6665 Wild Indigo Drive
Colorado Springs CO 80923
(719) 799-3686

Kevin & Jessica
The Colorado Springs Group
6665 Wild Indigo Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80923
(719) 799-3686