Avoiding Capital Gains Tax upon Sale of your Home

sebfreyCommentary, Santa Cruz Real Estate, Silicon Valley Real Estate

Tax Loophole

A month or so ago I attended the monthly Silicon Valley broker’s meeting of my company. They always have a speaker every month, and last month it was a gentleman from First American Exchange Company. He gave an interesting (if you can believe it!) presentation on Avoiding Capital Gains Tax upon Sale of your Home. Now that home prices have recovered – nearing, hitting or exceeding their all-time peak values in many areas of northern California – many home owners are facing a bit of a tax dilemma. Most home owners are aware that they enjoy a tax exclusion on the gain from the sale of their primary residence: up to $250,000 for single individuals, and up to $500,000 for married couples. It’s one of the best tax loopholes available to middle class Americans. With home values again soaring, a good number of home owners are finding that if they were to sell their house, they’d have a gain which exceeds the exclusion limit, and will potentially be faced with paying significant capital gains taxes. Would it surprise you to know that you can avoid paying tax on more than $500,000 of gain on your home? This can be accomplished if a homeowner converts their residence to a rental. Once the home is converted to a rental, the owners can sell it and use both the Section 121 exclusion of gain and the Section 1031 deferral of gain provisions to exclude some of the gain and defer paying tax on the rest. How it Works Let’s … Read More

Mortgages for More than just Spring Chickens

Seb FreyCommentary

Spring Chickens

As all of the housing forces come together, rather strange results surface from time to time. The newest is relatively unprecedented, with Americans of retirement-age taking out long-term mortgages. To read an interesting article about never being too old for a mortgage, CLICK HERE. It wasn’t so long ago that Americans would work to pay off their homes, sell them, and use the equity to downsize and buy a small home all-cash, with the remainder serving as the nest egg. Yet with equity levels taking such a hit over the last few years, homeowners have been forced to rethink the way they navigate their retirement. Interestingly, age is a protected category within the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a federal credit law that bars credit discrimination based on race, color, relation, sex, etc. With that said, as of late mortgages have gone out to borrowers nearing up to 100 years old, and everybody in between. In order to qualify for a mortgage, borrowers must demonstrate they have income rolling in. This can include retirement income, social security, etc. While previously such income would never help borrowers to qualify for anything, today’s low values and low rates are allowing retirement-age borrowers to get in the game. There are some unique issues that seniors must take into consideration. For starters, loan approval is based on current income levels, which in the case of retirement income could change after the death of a spouse. If this happens, the loan stays but the payment may prove to no longer be manageable. … Read More

Speculating on Santa Cruz Real Estate

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

This came up because the “switch” I had found for her had higher HOA dues than the property she was originally calling on, but I explained that the “switch” would rent for considerably more than the property which originally interested her, and would in fact provide much better cash flow. speculation.jpg These days, though, the people who are investing for cash flow are not buying in the mid-county area ( Capitola , Aptos , Soquel , etc.) – because the properties there do not cash flow without a huge down payment- and even then, if you were to put a huge cash down payment, you would have a poor cash-on-cash return of your investment. … I don’t see the sense in buying something in, say, Santa Cruz that requires a large down payment, which does not provide much in the way of cash flow (and probably has a negative real cash flow, considering vacancy factor, maintenance, etc.), and will be heading steadily down in resale value for some months (or years?) … On the other hand, it is patently sensible to me to buy a $250,000 3-bedroom house in Watsonville, put down 20% ($50,000), rent it out for $2000 a month , make $500/month after principal, interest, tax, and insurance – and assuming a 10% vacancy factor, you’re making a 10.8% return on your money every month. … There are very few investment-grade properties in Santa Cruz county outside of Watsonville where you can buy, hold at a profit, and sell down the road for a net profit – without speculating on an eventual price increase to make it all worth the considerable risk.

It’s Nigh Time to Buy in Santa Cruz

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

A few days ago, after about a month’s silence, I wrote something of a “doom and gloom” blog entry about Santa Cruz real estate – in fact, I’m proud to say, the entry was even picked up on the HousingDoom.com blog, which I read now and again to stay in touch with my darker side. You see, I felt the need to vent about what I see as a lot of hype by various individuals and organizations saying what a great time it is to buy some real estate. As I’ve said before, it may in fact be a good time for you to buy some real estate here in Santa Cruz. In any market, it really depends on your situation. All I’m saying is, don’t buy into the hype – positive or negative – about the current real estate market. Do your own research, make up your own mind. Make an informed decision, and be prepared to live with the consequences. It may be that you decide that it makes sense for you to buy some real estate right now in Santa Cruz. Over a hundred people bought property in the county in February – and did all of these 100 people make a horrible mistake? Indubitably, some of them did. Just as indubitably, some of them made very shrewd investment decisions which will yield rich rewards down the road. After all, let’s not forget the golden rule of real estate: you make money when you buy, you reap the cash when you sell. If … Read More

Santa Cruz Median Home Price: $475,000 in Sept. ’08

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

Still, though – if you have a house in Santa Cruz, you’re looking at it being worth about $58,725 less than it was this time last year, if your house is something like the median house. … I looked at Sold Single Family Residences: Median Price of Sold Houses in June & July of 1999 Watsonville: $247,000 (1.0) East side Santa Cruz: $390,500 (1.58097) West side Cruz: $395,000 3/2 1486 (1.59919) Capitola: $360,000 (1.457489) Soquel: $379,000 (1.5344) Felton: $310,000 (1.2551) What this says is that back in the summer of ’99, the median-priced house in Capitola cost about 1.457 more than the median-priced home in Watsonville. Now, let’s look at sales data from September 2008: Watsonville: $352,000 (1) East Side Santa Cruz: 615,500 (1.74857) West side Santa Cruz: 702,500 (2.0468) Capitola: $711,000 (2.01988) Soquel: $610,000 (1.73295) Felton: $486,500 (1.3821) (* August 2008) You’ll notice that compared to the 1999 ratio, the sampled areas in the county appear considerably higher relative to Watsonville than they have been historically. If we use the same ratio from the summer of ’99, here’s what prices in the rest of the county should look like today: Watsonville: $352,000 East Side Santa Cruz: $556,501 West side Santa Cruz: $562,914 Capitola: $513,004 Soquel: $540,108 Felton: $441,795 What does all this mean?

Watsonville Foreclosures Meet the Press

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

On the eve of our tour down to Watsonville to look at some REO foreclosure opportunities, I got a call from one of the staff writers for the Register Pajaronian.

…I don’t know that you’d need to write up 20 offers to get a decent price on a place in Watsonville, but It’s true that the asking prices are not quite to the point where they are obviously a screaming deal for a true, pure investor. But they are very close, and in many cases, it’s possible to negotiate a price down to the point where it does make sense.

There were recently a couple of listings in Watsonville where the asking price did make sense to investors – and those properties sold in under a week.

Watsonville Foreclosure Tour

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

I just spent the last hour or so going through every house and condo listing from Larkin Valley down through Watsonville, and I found that there are seventy listed REOs in that area.

…Investors need to pay less than retail consumers, because a true investor is looking for cash flow with a relatively small down payment – that is, he’s looking to actually get a return on his investment month to month, just as if he had it invested in an IRA or something.

But there are a few investor grade listings out there, and that’s what we’re going to be seeing this coming Saturday, March 1. … We’ll probably want to carpool, but if you want to follow along, that’s fine – we will make copies of the properties we are going to see, if you have a GPS unit in your car or know Watsonville well, feel free to drive by yourself and just meet us at each property in turn.

Notes from the Foreclosure Auction

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

I’d turned my brother on to the foreclosure auction some weeks ago, and he’d actually taken the time to drive around to quite a few of the properties on offer, to verify their condition, at least visually.

…There may have been a few flippers out there, but most of the excitement seemed to come from nicer homes in the nicer Bay Area neighborhoods, and people were looking to get into the market for a bit less than full retail value.

…Maybe a lot of other people ended up losing patience and wouldn’t have been around towards the end of the auction, and could have picked up some of these Santa Cruz properties for a song. I’m going to make a note on my calendar to check the sale price of these properties in six weeks or so, to see what they actually ended up selling for.

Santa Cruz Real Estate Investment Club

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

I cobbled together a PowerPoint presentation, about 20 slides or so, about some market statistics and the opportunities that are there for investors in Watsonville who want to buy short sale or REO real estate. I had 30 minutes to talk, it actually ended up being closer to an hour because there were a lot of questions from the people who were there.

It’s kind of amazing how much opportunity there is for investors down in Watsonville, but there’s so few people right here in Santa Cruz who know what’s going on down there.

… Anyway, I had fun doing the presentation, and I’m going to try to do some more such presentations at other investment clubs in the area.

Introducing Zilpy.com – Rental Info

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

After perusing Craigslist.com and the Santa Cruz Sentinel On-Line classifieds (as I talked about in a previous blog entry ), I figured it would rent for $1,250 or so per month.

…That’s pretty suspicious, given that it’s a much nicer property than Sunnyhills – it’s got a 1-car attached garage, an extra bathroom, and about 20% more square footage, but according to Zilpy, it would rent for about 17% less money than the superior townhome.

…Well, part of the problem may be that Zilpy is apparently using some kind of proximity factor in its algorithm, as well it should – but in the case of Weeks Drive, it comparing it to a couple of rentals in Adult Village, an “adult community” where at least one occupant must be 55 years old to live there, and the other occupant (if any) must be at least 45. That keeps a damper on home values in that area (which is kind of the idea), and it likewise has a depressive effect on rental prices, thus throwing off Zilpy’s estimate for home values.