Real Estate Taxes: Tips and Updates

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The new deadline for filing last year’s taxes is Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Time to review the current tax implications of owning a home.

First, we need to itemize homeowner deductions if we decide to claim them on our federal returns. There are a number of deductions available, but if you’re like most homeowners, you won’t itemize and claim them. This is because the IRS standard deduction is quite high since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The standard deduction that applies to the 2019 tax year is $24,400 for married partners filing jointly, $12,200 for single and married people filing separately, and $18,350 for single heads of households.

Most people prepare an itemized worksheet at least for their own knowledge — if only to compare the standard deduction against the itemized total before deciding how to file, or to show their accountants the expenditures. So, here are some major deductions of note at the current time.

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7 Common Title Problems in Real Estate Deals

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When you tour a home, a big question is whether “what you see is what you get.” Appraisers, home inspection professionals, and title companies help offer the answers. Through the title search, ownership of the land in traced back in time, showing current legal ownership, easements, and any notable issues.  

Until the moment the seller signs the buyer’s purchase offer, the buyer can back out of the deal, and a frequent reason for doing so involves marketability of title. A cloud on the title or an undisclosed easement might come to light, putting off a reasonable buyer. In any case, the mortgage lender must be convinced that the market price of the asset is truly fair and accurate—that what you see is what you get.

So, in the all-important tile search, a title company scours deeds and other documents recorded with the county, state and federal tax lien records, and various financial, bankruptcy, and divorce records that could complicate a title. If nothing substantial is unearthed, the title is deemed clean. Some common, even beneficial encumbrances will turn up in a title search. A buyer can expect to learn about homeowners’ association rules, utility easements, and normal zoning restrictions. But detrimental encumbrances can be dealbreakers.

Here are seven of the most common title issues to watch for in any real estate sale:

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Fintech and Proptech and Deeds… Oh My! Trends Shaping the Future of Real Estate

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Tech is transforming real estate at a speed that worries some and excites others.

But many would agree that current real estate transactions trigger as much anxiety as joy. A deal can take months, with a string of third parties showering sellers and buyers with fees and paperwork. Those with inside knowledge have an edge in the market, while the ordinary person’s buying process is steered by experts and administrators.

Can technology put ordinary homeowners and home shoppers in the driver’s seat?

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Update: The State of the Transfer on Death Deed

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Ever thought about placing some of your key assets in instruments that bypass the probate process? In a number of states, homeowners have the option of placing their real estate in a transfer on death deed. Think of a retirement account that’s transferred to its designated beneficiary on death. In the same way, with a transfer on death deed for real estate, a home can pass to a designated person, people, or a charity automatically upon the current owner’s death.

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Zeroing In: The “Subject To” Clause in Your Real Estate Deed

The rights and restrictions that come with a real estate purchase can be complicated. The “subject to” phrase means the full story may not be visible within the four corners of a deed.

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Look for the phrase “subject to” in a deed. The deed might say: “Subject to all rights of way, easements and other encumbrances of record…” The deed is a grant of the land, but not every contingency appears on its face. 

Most home buyers receive warranty deeds, which represent the real estate title as clear of creditors’ claims and other people’s ownership interests. Still, some rules and encumbrances can legitimately apply to the property. Yet they might be dealbreakers for the prospective buyer. Is there, for example, a utility company’s easement that could rule out a new deck, swimming pool, or accessory dwelling unit?

Homeowners’ associations have governing documents, containing rules about landscaping and so forth. And for a single home, the “subject to” clause is a catchall that spares the deed from reciting long, intricate property descriptions that were hallmarks of deeds in earlier times: the measurements and directions, setbacks, wells, driveways and sewer lines, and other parties’ long-recorded rights and responsibilities regarding shared resources. A general plan of development contains those restrictions.

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Viral Fraud: More Deed Crime Targets in the Coronavirus Economy

Well-known schemes are being repackaged for the time of COVID-19. Here’s an overview of how real estate fraudsters are approaching their targets — and how to avoid becoming one.

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Scams flare up during natural disasters and financial crises, so we can expect a spike in deed fraud in 2020 and beyond. Battered by the pandemic, facing snowballing debts and possible defaults, many people are now considering risks they would have rejected in the past. Deed fraudsters can be counted on in times like these to aggressively seek new opportunities.

Any wiring directions or changes to money transfer requests over the phone or by email should arouse suspicion today. Rather than act or answer, recipients should call the company and deal with a real person. And rather than use phone numbers supplied in messages, recipients should take the extra step of visiting the company’s website, copying the published number, and calling that number. Personal details should be volunteered only after the identity of the party making the request if verified, or by physically going to the company’s office.

Of course, COVID-19 itself is making in-person meetings less possible or at least less palatable. Part of the fraud risk involves the way online transmission of our personal and financial data can be so easily and rapidly handled.   

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Buying a Home? How Covid-19 Has Changed the Game

COVID-19 has changed the real estate market. Understanding the recent changes can help buyers prepare for the transaction, and set reasonable home buying timelines. Here is an overview of changes in the buying process. We conclude with a 6-point checklist for the buyer coming into the market today.

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It’s springtime — always a great season for people who show, sell, and buy homes. Enter 2020, and the harsh and often unpredictable impacts of COVID-19. In the year’s first quarter, business and government offices closed in droves, and millions of U.S. jobs were lost. Lenders have a heightened sense of caution now, as they anticipate changes in borrowers’ work situations, income, debt, and credit performance.

The depth of the trouble was undeniable by March 11, 2020. On that day the World Health Organization (WHO) categorized the virus outbreak as a pandemic. As the novel coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from one person to another, the world’s public health experts urged everyone to stay at least 6 feet apart and avoid gathering in groups. Needless to say, that put a damper on home tours and, in turn, listings. By March, the number of homes listed in the market had dropped substantially.

And this brings us to the people who need to buy or sell a home in the not-too-distant future. What will this new situation mean for the home shopping experience? Here, we dive into the present real estate trends and challenges, and the issues most likely to impact transactions from 2020 on.

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Pandemics, Property Transfer Breakdowns… The Digital Real Estate Industry Is Coming

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The latest impetus to digitalize real estate might just turn out to be the tipping point. Practically overnight, COVID-19 is a defining element of our time. This hideous and deadly virus became a major challenge to the systems that carry us through our everyday transactions.

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First-Time Home Buyer Pro Tips

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Thinking of buying your first home? First-time buying is exciting. It’s filled with the dreamy pleasure of beholding perfect kitchens, bedrooms and baths, and the cliff-hanger phone calls about your loan approval. (“We’re nearly there! I just need one more document…”) You’ll peruse home inspection results, negotiate the home price so you can re-do that floor, and, ultimately, you’ll get to “yes” with the seller. By the time you finally sit down at the closing table, you’ll feel intense relief, and one of the biggest thrills of your life. Here are some tips to help make that day a resounding success.

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