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LA Digs - Northeast LA Real Estate Blog

Welcome to LA Digs, the real estate and Northeast Los Angeles community blog written by Realtors Tracy King and Keely Myres.

Here, we share tips, market updates, and local news bits to keep you informed on what's happening in Northeast Los Angeles and the surrounding neighborhoods. Read on to learn about the latest in your neighborhood!

The new Tax Reform Act: How will it affect your real estate life?

The new Tax Reform Act: How will it affect your real estate life?

The newly passed Tax Reform Act supplies perks based on investments in property, but not everyone benefits and there is a downside.

It's been all over the news. Pundits have been spinning the plusses and minuses of the newly passed Tax Reform Act. Some say homeowners are going to get the shaft. Some say there will be a windfall for homeowners and investors. As a long-time real estate professional, my inbox has been inundated with questions from those who just purchased homes in Highland Park and Eagle Rock this year, as well as those looking to invest in homes for sale in Pasadena, Mt. Washington and other areas of North East Los Angeles.

The long and short of it? I have good news and I have not-so-good news. The good news is, the new tax reform act that was just passed by both houses of Congress isn't as bad as it could have been for those who have some financial interest in real estate. The not-so-good news is, it's not going to be as good for real estate as it has been over the past several years.

  1. We can still write off some state and local taxes up to $10,000. The bad news is that is actually a tax increase for those of us who have more than an $800,000 house and/or still pay some other state or local taxes.

  2.  We still have the mortgage interest deduction, but only up to a mortgage of $750,000, instead of the $1,000,000 it has been.

  3. The $500,000 capital gains exclusion is not affected! If you have lived in your primary residence for 2 of the last 5 years, you and your spouse can each deduct up to $250,000 of your net capital gain when you sell your house.

So there it is. The basic nuts and bolts. The rules haven't changed. When it comes to investing in any sort of real estate, the rule is, take your time, perform your due diligence, be well informed and understand the benefits and potential pitfalls.

It has always been advisable to consult your tax consultant before making any decisions regarding your real estate activity. This is certainly true today.

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Is Putting Money into a Refinance a Good Investment?

Today’s interest rates are the lowest in just about forever. Yet a number of people are not refinancing to take advantage of these rates because the value of their homes is not quite enough to show that the equity is the 20 to 25% that the lender requires to do the loan. What am I talking about? Lenders today like for borrowers to have a healthy amount of equity in their homes before they lend them money at the incredibly more affordable interest rate than any of us have seen in any of our memories. That’s so in case we don’t make our payments and the lender has to foreclose, they will actually be able to sell our property for enough to pay them back for their investment, even if we don’t make our payments for many months and even if the value of our property goes down after they give us the money.

Interest rates are so low right now that even if you are a bit “upside down” with your loan, meaning that you owe, say, 90% of what it is worth today, you might want to consider investing in paying down your mortgage balance to complete the refinance. Jack Guttentag, The Mortgage Professor, wrote an article for Inman News that illustrates the scenario ( Check out his calculator to see what return paying a lower interest rate yields on your money:

One important element to this idea depends on whether you can get an appraisal that reflects an acceptable value for your home. I blogged recently about my personal trials and tribulations regarding this, but in the end, I was offered a lower interest rate than I could have gotten earlier this year, and although I had to put money in to get the loan, I think it was totally worth it in the long run.
Another element is, of course, do you have the money to put into the payoff? This is obviously not a solution for those who are upside down and unable to pay down the mortgage or having trouble affording their payments.
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Buyers In Today's Market

Buyers in today's market are seeing some of the most confusing contradictions we've had in the market in my 18 years selling real estate. On the one hand, there is more inventory including more foreclosures and short sales than we've had in over 12 years, and we often see price reductions of over $100,000 on some even modestly priced homes. On the other hand, we see multiple offers with prices going over asking. It doesn't seem to make any sense.

Especially in these confusing times, pricing it right is the key to success. The hard part for a buyer to figure out is whether the price is right or can they offer less? Sellers are wondering whether the right price is too low and can they try just a bit higher? If the price is good enough to draw multiple offers, is it crazy to be in a bidding war when all the news says we're in a down market?

Here's the really hard part: you need to rely on the advice that moves you toward what you really want. This is true of any subject, from housing to your career. That means that your mother or nephew or friend at the office is not who you should rely on because they are rarely the ones who tell you to do something adventurous. They usually see their role in your life as the cautionary voice of what can go bad. This way, they are never wrong. If you ignore their advice and do something and it doesn't turn out, they told you so. If you don't do it, they were right and can never be proven wrong. And if you do it anyway and it turns out great, well, maybe you forget that they told you not to do it. The only advice that people seem to take from friends all the time which is risky is buying stocks. And that turns out badly so often, it's amazing.

What to do? Buy because you need a place to live. Buy because you want your own home in a neighborhood so you can be a grownup and a citizen and participate in the American Dream. Buy because you're tired of your landlord raising your rent and telling you you can't smoke in your own home, or own a dog, or paint your bedroom purple. Buy because you are tired of seeing all that rent money go to helping your landlord buy your house with you not getting any ownership of it.

Buying a house as purely an investment strategy is not a bad thing, but you cannot expect to see your stock share go predictably up like the accumulated interest on a CD. Over time, say 5 to 10 years, you are pretty sure to see your initial investment increase significantly. But don't make that the only reason to own a home.
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