3.8% Medicare Real Estate Tax: Fact or Fiction?


You may have heard rumors about a 3.8% seller real estate tax to begin in 2013 and wondered if there was any truth to it.

Simply put, these rumors are a mixture of fact and fiction: When people refer to the “Medicare Tax”, they are talking about the tax provision of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a piece of health care legislation. This provision of the legislation is an investment income tax, not a sales tax on the sale of real estate. It may mean that a small percentage of home sellers who fit very narrow parameters might pay additional taxes on the profits of home sales that exceed a designated threshold amount.

Who exactly will be affected by this tax? Only those taxpayers BOTH designated by the provision as "high earners," AND who sell their homes at a substantial profit. "High earners”, according to the new law, are those who earn $250,000 (for married couples filing jointly) or $125,000 (for couples filing separately), or $200,000 (for all others).

The tax affects only those “high earners” who will see a substantial profit from the sale of their property, but this situation is uncommon. Why is this? Profit, according to this statue, will be calculated not on the basis of sales price. Rather, it will be adjusted to reflect existing capital gains exclusions for primary residences. The existing home sale capital gains exclusion on a principal residence is $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples. No “Medicare Tax” will apply to gains within these limits.

If you feel that you may be among the few who must pay this new investment tax, you may want to consider selling before the law goes into effect in 2013. It is always best to consult with an accountant and/or tax attorney before making any decisions.

Posted on November 2, 2013 at 12:03 am
Edward Krigsman | Posted in Blog |

How new finance legislation affects home owners, buyers and sellers


Many home owners, buyers, and sellers have been carefully watching the new federal finance package passed on January 1, 2013 by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. This is because it included automatic tax increases as well as federal spending cuts that involve real estate programs.

Many important real estate programs were extended, albeit for a limited time. Therefore homeowners, buyers and sellers should pay attention to these new time periods when planning financially.

Components of the legislation most likely to impact real estate decisions: 

  • Capital gains tax exclusions for sale of a principal residence remain in place. This benefit protects up to $500,000 of capital gain ($250,000 for individual filers). However, home sellers with incomes of $450,000 ($400,00 for individual filers) or above and where the gain on the sale of their home is above $500,000 will now pay taxes on the excess capital gains at a higher tax higher rate.
  • Key provisions of the Mortgage Debt Relief Act are extended through January 1, 2014. This provides financial relief in the form of lower taxes for home owners or sellers who have a portion of their mortgage debt forgiven by their lender. For sellers, this forgiveness occurs through a form of a short sale or foreclosure. For home owners, this relief comes in the form of a loan modification.  

Without this extension, any debt forgiven would become taxable. Home buyers will benefit from this extension since it will likely result in a greater number of short sales and foreclosures being available for sale, as underwater sellers are more incentivized.

  • Deductions for mortgage insurance for filers earning below $110,000 are extended to through 2013. Mortgage insurance—usually paid for by home buyers—allows home buyers who have less money to put down to qualify for better loans. Home buyers with qualified residences will be able to continue to deduct the cost of this mortgage insurance. This benefit is also retroactive through 2012.
  • The 10 percent tax credit for energy improvements to existing homes is extended through 2013. This credit, which is limited to $500, applies to existing homes and is also retroactive through 2012.
  • Capital gains on real estate contributed by home owners for conservation are extended through 2014.  Increased contribution limits and carry-forward periods for contributions of appreciated real property will be maintained.
  • The first $5M in individual estates and $10M for family estates are now exempt from estate tax. Tax rates in excess of these figures have increased. This will benefit the heirs.  

Other changes—such as new estate tax exemptions and an increased capital gain tax rate for those earning more than $450,000 ($400,000 for individuals)—may also impact real estate decision-making. As always, home owners, buyers, and sellers are advised to seek the advice of a qualified tax advisor before making major financial decisions, including the decision to buy or sell real estate. 


Posted on November 2, 2013 at 12:00 am
Edward Krigsman | Posted in Blog |

New Home Design & Social Trends


Builders of new homes frequently discover new ways to differentiate their new construction from existing houses, hoping to capture the attention of potential customers by delighting and surprising them.

The more successful builders therefore develop keen skills in observing emerging social trends, incorporating features, finishes, and floor plans that fulfill the needs of new buyer groups in ways that are often clever, unexpected and relevant.

Here are several current home design innovations that provide us glimpses into ways our culture is changing:

1.      Made-to-Order Homes:  Many of us have grown accustomed to the convenience of shopping for—and customizing—household products online. Home builders are capitalizing on this trend, developing websites that make it easy for buyers to configure their home online. One builder has assimilated over 70 systems and manufacturer products like plumbing, electronics, HVAC, security, and more into a “core wall.” This allows the rest of the home design to be adjusted based on family needs. Warren Buffet’s recent purchase of Clayton Homes, the nations’ largest modular builder, indicates that online home ordering will be a growing trend.

2.      Universal Design: Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65. Homebuilders have found that both older and younger homeowners want “universal design,” homes that better fit the needs of people across the widest range of ability and ages. Examples of universal design: Entries without steps and showers without thresholds. Electrical outlets are now being incorporated into light switches at eye-level, permitting homeowners to more easily plug in appliances like vacuum cleaners without bending down to the floor.

3.      Activated Ceilings: The current generation of first time homebuyers is the first in history who grew up looking down—an unintended consequence of the popularity of handheld mobile electronic devices. This creates strain on the eyes, neck and shoulders which can result in a variety of vision, spine, and other health issues. Designers are addressing this by incorporating more dramatic visual features into home ceilings. By giving us reason to widen our range of vision, the hope is that overall health will be improved.

4.Fast House Nation: Many of us are now adjusting to an increased rate of change—rather than accumulating stuff, we crave more diverse life experiences. So, new homes are being delivered with inexpensive opportunities for self-expression and customization. Chalkboard paint is increasingly used as a wall color, permitting artistic expression for children (of all ages). New senior housing communities are incorporating parking spaces for food trucks near the entrance, bringing fresh and varying culinary experiences to residents.

5.      Big Small Houses: We are requiring less space that does more for us. In fact, the National Association of Homebuilders expects the average size of a new home in 2015 will be 2,152 square feet, a 10% drop in size from 2010. Living rooms, dining rooms, home offices, and entry foyers are all on the endangered spaces list. Private, single-purpose rooms (like master bedrooms and bathrooms) are now expected to incorporate multiple and shared uses, such as coffee bars or exercise equipment. Wi-Fi networks and mobile tablet devices have rendered dedicated dens unnecessary. Look for “great rooms” to take center stage, incorporating the functions traditionally demanded of multiple smaller rooms.

6.Waning of the Book: As more readers gravitate to space-saving e-readers like the Kindle, printed books are becoming less common. As a result, bookcases are giving way to “collector” cases for displaying personal treasures like collectibles, antiques, family heirlooms, or natural artifacts such as gems or shells.

7.      Families, Extended:  Home markets serving international buyers often incorporate a greater number of culturally appropriate features. More buyers today wouldn’t think of living without extended family, and expect household spaces to be more purposefully designed for shared living.  As a consequence, new homes are being built with multiple master suites. What some may have characterized as a  “granny flat” in the past is positioned prominently in these new floor plans, reflecting the elevated social status and esteem of elder parents. Some designs, like home builder Lennar’s “NextGen,” are “homes within homes,” complete with eat-in kitchenettes and living rooms. Primary kitchens may incorporate isolated cook areas serviced by high-powered fans, to keep food aromas out of the living spaces of the home.

Posted on November 1, 2013 at 11:57 pm
Edward Krigsman | Posted in Blog |

Cultural Trends: How driving trends are impacting the housing market


As we have mentioned in previous blog posts, home buyers continue to consider their daily commute when making home purchase decisions. Some Americans are limiting their driving or forgoing cars all together. In recent years, the driving trends of Millennial and Boomer generations have decreased steadily. More Americans in general are embracing alternatives to driving like mass transit, walking, bicycling, car sharing, and working from home.

Recent studies and articles in publications like the Washington Post and theNew York Times document declining automobile use. Driving measured by consumption of auto fuel tells the same story. Whether you are a home buyer, seller, or owner, these trends may impact your decisions in new and surprising ways, with the value of your home being shaped, at least in part, by this trend.

If you are in the market for a home, considering your commute, walk-score, and transportation options could be an important part of determining if a particular neighborhood is right for you. It might also be helpful to seek out the assistance of a real estate agent familiar with such issues.

Real estate companies have started adding search features to their websites to assist buyers with evaluating commuting information. For example, Windermere recently added INRIX DriveTime™ to its website which allows home buyers to search for homes based on commute times. Walkscore.com and Transitscore.com provide home buyers with a quick and easy way to assess the quality of a community based on walkability and access to mass transit. These online tools highlight those homes with shorter drive times and higher walkability, factors which could end up impacting the value of certain homes as some buyers “vote with their feet,” rather than with their car.

Real estate developers are embracing this trend too by building in locations that reduce car use; this is why you may notice an increase in new housing as you travel from suburban neighborhoods into cities like San Francisco, Portland, San Diego, or Seattle. In some of these cities, it is increasingly common to see townhomes built in more walkable neighborhoods, many without dedicated, private garages. 

City planners are encouraging such construction by changing zoning laws to foster "Transit Oriented Development," (TOD). TOD changes zoning to incentivize developers to create new housing construction close to light rail stations, with progressively lower housing density to about 1/2 mile from their stops. This solves what city planners have come to call the "last mile problem," (getting more commuters home from a transit hub). Cities with TOD initiatives include Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Salt Lake City Metro Area, and the Portland Metro area.

With experts saying that consumers are trending towards less driving, home buyers may wish to evaluate the location of their purchase by asking themselves the following questions:

  • Does this neighborhood lower the cost of living, while increasing the quantity and quality of free time, by increasing my independence from cars?
  • What is the travel time between the places those in my household frequent most, such as home, work, schools, and recreational amenities?

If you are selling your home, consider highlighting its location as one that might improve the quality of life for the next residents by showcasing drive time, walkability, and proximity to transit—to the extent that such benefits exist.

Studies continue to show that the amount of time a person spends commuting every day is a major factor when buying a home. In recent years, there has also been a significant trend towards mass transit and reducing one’s “carbon footprint” by driving less. This is important for both buyers and sellers to keep in mind, as these factors can have a significant impact on the long-term value of a home – and on the quality of life for you and those in your community.



Posted on November 1, 2013 at 11:55 pm
Edward Krigsman | Posted in Blog |