Real Estate Roundup: SLC Realtors recognized for service

The St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors held a mixer at Phoenix on the Bay in Ogdensburg Aug. 6. It had a dual purpose, allowing affiliates to showcase their products and services and to recognize Realtor members for their years of service. Each Realtor member received a Realtor pin based on the number of years of continuous Realtor membership (rounded down to the nearest five-year period). In future years, we will honor members only when they reach five-year milestones. [Read more…]

Consider needs, options in search

Lance Evans

Lance Evans

Recently, I had the chance to participate in an unusual activity for me — house hunting. Even more unusual, the house is one that neither I, nor any family member, will probably ever live in. How did this come about? [Read more…]

Sell with a Realtor for better outcome

Lance Evans

Lance Evans

Recent media reports have touted selling your home yourself, more commonly called for sale by owner or FSBO. It seems like a nice idea: sell your home yourself and save the price of a commission. After all, how hard can it be to sell a property that you know so well?

It turns out that it is not as easy a task as you would think. There is more to the process than simply putting a sign in front and sitting back and waiting for offers to roll in.

Before a property is put on the market, sellers are required by law to fill out numerous forms, whether the property is listed with a real estate broker or if the owner is selling it by him or herself. Some of these carry penalties if not filled out and available to a buyer at the time the buyer submits a purchase offer. Realtors are well versed in which forms are needed for each type of transaction.

Sellers also often underestimate the amount of time required to market and show their property, overestimate the value of their property and then have to deal with security concerns as a result of strangers having access to their home. [Read more…]

Re-register for STAR by year’s end

Lance Evans

Lance Evans

Homeowners who receive the Basic STAR exemption need to re-register with the New York State Tax Department in order to receive the exemption in 2014 and subsequent years. There is no need to register to receive the 2013 STAR exemption or to re-register every year. Based on the information provided, the Tax Department will monitor homeowners’ eligibility in future years. Registration ends Dec. 31 and can be completed by clicking on “Register for STAR” at www.tax.ny.gov or by phone at (518) 457-2036.

Senior citizens who receive the Enhanced STAR exemption are not affected by the new registration requirement. They must, however, continue to apply annually or participate in the Income Verification Program. [Read more…]

Homeownership is not a tax loophole

Lance Evans

There has been a lot of talk recently about various ways to reduce the deficit without raising taxes. One of the ideas is to eliminate the Mortgage Interest Deduction, the deduction that homeowners are allowed to take on a mortgage’s interest.

This is a bad idea for a number of reasons:

  • The MID is not a new tax deduction; it was introduced along with the income tax in 1913. The MID allows homeowners who itemize their taxes to deduct interest paid on mortgage debt up to $1 million interest on a primary residence and an additional home, and also interest paid on home equity debt up to $100,000.
  • Homeowners currently pay 80 to 90 percent of the federal income tax. Eliminating the MID would increase the share homeowners pay to 95 percent. Normally, nine out of 10 home buyers borrow money to purchase a home. Housing-related tax provisions like the MID help people who don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings to buy a home outright, allowing them to begin building their future through home ownership. It turns out that eliminating the MID would be a tax increase for a substantial number of homeowners, an increase that would fall heavily on middle and lower income families. Of the families who claim the MID, 63 percent earn less than $100,000 per year. Another 25 percent earn between $100,000 and $250,000. Only 12 percent of the total is claimed by taxpayers earning $250,000 or more. Removing the MID will adversely affect the wealth of middle and lower income families and make it harder for them to achieve homeownership. Is focusing solely on tax rates a better goal than protecting the wealth of the middle class?
  • The MID can mean real savings for real families at tax time. If a family bought a house this year with a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with an interest rate of 4.5 percent, they could save nearly $3,500 in federal taxes when they file next year. Is it worth jeopardizing home ownership considering the boost it brings to a community and the economy? Homeownership promotes neighborhood stability, improves school performance and enhances family health. Home sales also have various economic spin-offs; real estate transactions touch an estimated 84 different jobs and the equivalent of one job is generated for every two homes sold. Of course, this does not include the economic activity connected to ongoing home maintenance.
  • Reducing or eliminating the MID could tip the economy into another recession. This is not the time to have more job losses or economic turmoil. The wealth of most middle class Americans is connected to their home. Millions of Americans bought their homes with the understanding that mortgage interest is tax deductible, and many of them have steadily paid down their mortgages to build equity in their home.

Eliminating or reducing the MID would destroy the hard-earned equity of all homeowners, regardless of tax status, which would in turn hurt the economic and societal spin-offs of homeownership.

The MID is an important part of the American dream of homeownership. While you can imagine that Realtors and other real estate professionals are concerned about a possible elimination or reduction in the MID, a Harris Interactive survey of 3,000 homeowners and renters shows Americans agree: In the survey, nearly 75 percent of homeowners and 66 percent of renters said that the MID was extremely or very important to them.

Contact our elected officials — U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, or U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand — to get your voice heard on this issue. To learn more, visit www.houselogic.com and search “Mortgage Interest Deduction.”

Lance M. Evans is the executive officer of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. He has lived in the north country since 1985. Contact him at levans@nnymls.com. His column appears monthly.

Report: Homeowners healthier

Lance Evans

A report about homeownership recently caught my eye. Canada’s national housing agency, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., partnered with Habitat for Humanity to see how the lives of Habitat families changed after they purchased and moved into their homes.

As you may know, Habitat helps low- to moderate-income families buy a home. Part of the purchase includes about 300 to 500 hours of “sweat equity” by the families. The houses have affordable, interest-free loans with monthly payments based on the cost of materials and the land. [Read more…]

Realtors advocate for owners

Lance Evans

Realtors from the Jefferson-Lewis and St. Lawrence County Boards recently met with Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., state Senators and Assembly members. We advocated for consumer-friendly bills and policies to help the economy and opposed policies that would hurt homeownership.

When we met with Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. Owens, we voiced our concerns about potential changes to the mortgage interest deduction, the property tax deduction and the capital gains exclusion on the sale of a principal residence. More than 75 percent of homeowners use the mortgage interest deduction. If eliminated, home values would decline by an average of at least 15 percent. Even eliminating the deduction for just a few homeowners would compress home values in the whole market. In addition, reducing the capital gains exclusion threshold would reduce household retirement savings and financial flexibility. [Read more…]

Fort Drum sustains local market

I was honored to speak about the impact that Fort Drum has on real estate during the Fort Drum listening session on April 25. The text of my remarks follows:

“Our more than 500 members list, sell, appraise and provide loans and other services for most of the real estate transactions in the tri-county area.

“I want to begin by thanking Maj. Gen. (Stephen J.) Townsend, Col. (Gary A.) Rosenberg, and Col. (Thomas M.) O’Donoghue for attending this listening session and giving us this opportunity to provide feedback. [Read more…]

How remodeling affects values

Property owners often wonder how different interior and exterior changes and updates affect home value when it is time to sell.

Some of the answers may be found in the 2013 Cost vs. Value Report. This annual overview of the cost of different home remodeling projects and their resale value is a collaboration between the National Association of Realtors, REALTOR Magazine and Remodeling Magazine. It compares construction costs with resale values for different remodeling projects.

Lance Evans

According to the report, the highest return on investment at resale comes from exterior replacement projects that enhance “curb appeal.” These do not have to be costly. The report compares national rankings alongside regional rankings. In the mid-Atlantic region (New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey), the cities surveyed were Albany, Buffalo, New York City and Rochester in New York, as well as Allentown, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

In terms of percentage of cost recouped, the national rankings show the number one improvement, and least expensive, was replacing the home’s entry door with a steel door at an average cost of $1,137 and 85.6 percent of that recouped. Another inexpensive project, and third on the national list, was replacing a garage door. The cost is about $1,500 with about 75 percent recouped in a re-sale.

[Read more…]

April is 45th fair housing month

This year, April marks the 45th anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act. Each year Realtors recognize the significance of this event and reconfirm their commitment to upholding the fair housing law as well as committing to offer equal professional service to all in their search for real property. As the leading advocate for home ownership, Realtor Associations, like the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors, strongly support the Fair Housing Act and believe that anyone who is able and willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a home should have the opportunity to pursue that dream. [Read more…]