Monday, October 30, 2006

Deducting Interest When You Are Not on Title

The following is an interesting article entitled, "Housing Counsel: Deducting Interest When You Are Not on Title," written by Benny L. Kass & published on Realty Times. I did not know that it was possible to deduct the interest on your taxes if you were not on the title. But read the follow case in point to understand the parameters of which this may occur.

Question: I want to buy a condominium unit for my son. Although he makes a decent living, his credit is not good. Accordingly, the lender has advised that title must be in my name only. My son will live in the property and make all of the mortgage payments.

Can he deduct the mortgage interest on his tax returns?

Answer: The answer is a qualified yes. There are certain rules which you must follow since if the IRS ever challenges the deduction, the burden will be on your son to prove that he is eligible to take the deductions.

We must first look to the regulations which have been promulgated by the IRS.

Regulation 1.163-1(b) reads as follows:

Interest paid by the taxpayer on a mortgage upon real estate of which he is the legal or equitable owner, even though the taxpayer is not directly liable upon the bond or note secured by such mortgage, may be deducted as interest on his indebtedness.

In August of 2003, the United States Tax Court addressed this situation and denied the interest deduction. The petitioner bought a house for his mother and although the mortgage loan was not in his name, he made the monthly loan payments. He argued to the Tax Court that he was obligated to repay his mother and “that his failure to repay would result, upon his mother’s death, in a corresponding reduction in his testamentary share of his mother’s estate.”

But the tax court rejected this argument. Based on the facts which were presented in evidence, the Court determined that the petitioner was neither “directly liable on the note securing the mortgage on his mother’s house, nor (was) he a legal or equitable owner of the property.” (Montoya v IRS, decided August 5, 2003.)

What exactly is required to be an “equitable owner”? Our legal dictionaries define this as ownership by one who does not have legal title.

Let’s look at this example. I own property A; I am the legal title holder to the property. I enter into a contract to sell the property to you. Based on that contract, even though you have not yet taken title, you have certain rights. These rights are based on the legal principles called “equity” -- namely that the courts will do what is fair under the circumstances, rather than strictly interpreting the letter of the law.

Obviously, each case has to be decided on the specific facts presented to the Court. In the Montoya case, the Tax Court determined that the son just did not have enough evidence to prove that he had some kind of ownership in his mother’s property.

Several years earlier, this same Tax Court did allow a couple to deduct the mortgage interest even though they were not on title to the property. In Uslu v IRS, the following facts were presented to the Court.

Uslu had filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy relief and was not eligible to obtain a mortgage loan. His brother bought the house, in which the only occupants were Uslu and his wife. The loan was in the brother’s name only, but Uslu made all of the mortgage payments. He also made all of the repairs and improvements to the property. The brother signed a Quit Claim Deed conveying the property to Uslu, although this Deed was never recorded on the land records.

The Tax Court found that Uslu’s mortgage payments “constituted payments on an indebtedness” and thus could be deducted for income tax purposes.

According to the Court:

The Court is satisfied, from all of the evidence presented, that petitioners (Uslu) have continuously treated the ... property as if they were the owners, and that they exclusively, held the benefits and burdens of ownership thereof. On this record, the Court holds that petitioners established equitable and beneficial ownership of the (property), and they were liable to (the brother) in respect of the mortgage indebtedness.

How do you meet the burden? Here are some suggestions:

1. Your son must continuously live in the property. To prove this, his driver’s license, voter registration and utility bills should be in his name at the property address;

2. You and your son should enter into a written agreement, spelling out that he is fully obligated to make the mortgage payments on a timely basis, and that you reserve the right to evict him should be go into default; the agreement should specifically state that you recognize that your son has an equitable interest in the property;

3. Your son must be responsible for all maintenance and upkeep of the property, and

4. You should prepare and sign a Quit Claim Deed, in recordable form, conveying the property to your son. This will not be recorded, but will be further evidence of your decision that this property is, in reality if not legally, owned by your son.

There obviously are no guarantees, but if you follow the guidelines spelled out in the Uslu case, you have a good chance of prevailing should the IRS challenge your son’s deductions.

Until next time - MARC IT SOLD!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Supply of homes on market takes dip?!?

That was one of the font page headlines in today’s, 10/21/6, Orlando Sentinel (,0,349657.story?coll=orl-home-headlines). While this may be so, as reported by ORRA (the Orlando Regional Realtor® Association), I find that it is at the same time somewhat incorrect in that there is a better defining picture of this situation.

Statistics are great. They are the numbers – the so to speak ‘black & white’ of the situation. But at the same time they can be manipulated. That is one basic reason that I do not believe in the CMA (Comparative Market Analysis), because I can take those numbers and manipulate them to my needs. At one time, & I apologize for the digression here, an appraisal was as good as the bible when it came to real estate valuation. But this has drastically changed over the years. Lately, I’ve seen appraisals that were so wholly undervalued & then another appraiser might come in with a greatly different value. The reason that I mention this here is that as good as numbers are, then can be greatly manipulated.

Back to the article in question. While a good article, it states in the second paragraph that the supply of homes in the Greater Orlando market has dipped. And this is true. But in the fourth paragraph, the article mentions the sales drop "in the Realtors' core Orlando market (mainly Orange and Seminole counties)."

Why I say that this is conflicting is because for the past 10 months I have weekly gathered the data on inventory of single-family homes, condos & townhomes that are listed available for sale in the MLS in just Orange & Seminole counties. While I’ve seen a couple of weeks here & there where there has been a drop in inventory, the overall data suggests differently.

Proof in point:As of 10/17 the total inventory, as specified above, is 16,045. On 9/20, this figure was 15,828; and, on 8/22, 15,479. I utilized these dates because they are approximately 1 month apart. This shows you that even though there was a week 9/28-10/4 where there was a drop in available home of 93 units, that we have had a consistent rise in inventory in the core Orlando market.

I am not saying your story is erroneous, but I think that this shows a better picture of what is really going on in the Greater Orlando Real Estate Market, especially in the counties of Orange & Seminole.

Until next time – MARC IT SOLD!

Friday, October 20, 2006

FSBO’s – Where are They Now?

Last year, 13% of all homes sold went the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) route, according to the National Association of Realtor’s 2005 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers ($FILE/2005HBSonlineHighlights.pdf) That figure will show a drastic decline when the 2006 figures are published. FSBO’s work great when we are in a seller’s market – but that was so last year.

Most FSBO’s go that route because they wish to save on the commission (nowadays I require a 7% commission). But I must admit that my marketing, as a realtor®, has also had to be altered. I have to offer a lot more to my clients. But that is for another story.

Studies have shown that you can get more in less time utilizing a Realtor®. A recent NAR Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers study showed that a realtor® can get 16% more for a typical For Sale By Owner home. Everything else being equal & you just do the math, why would anyone want to go the FSBO route, if you figure that they will average at least 9% (16 – 7) more utilizing a realtor®? I just don’t understand the logic; but then again, I think that too many people do not look at the whole picture & just one little aspect of it. So, who’s kidding whom?

Last year, you could put a sign in your yard & your home would sell within a reasonable amount of time. Nowadays, you need a proven marketing plan. And, utilizing a discount realtor®, who will typically just charge you a fee for putting your home in the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is not considered a ‘proven marketing plan’, nor should you expect your home to sell too quickly.

Presently in the Greater Orlando area, there are over 16K homes for sale and that’s just in two counties – Orange & Seminole. How can someone think that by just putting a sign in their yard that they are going to garner the attention necessary to sell their home with that much competition? And that does not even include a lot of the homes offered by new home builders that are not listed in the MLS.

A good marketing plan has many different aspects to it & includes advertising in different media. Even a realtor® who just puts a sign in the yard & places the listing in the MLS is not doing enough. You need to show Price & Value to sell a home these days. It’s not difficult, but you have to prove it & not just once. Because for a home to sell, it must first be sold to the selling realtor® before it can be sold to the buyer.

Leaving this all aside, there are still many reasons not to go the FSBO route.

Pricing your property to sell involves more than just comparing it with other houses that have recently sold. The uniqueness of each property and its own values are based on location, condition, financing, amenities and other market factors.¨

Advertising can be very expensive, especially if you continue for a sustained period of time. Additionally, your Realtor can market your home utilizing avenues that are not available to you; including, but not limited to, the Multiple Listing Service.

When prospects inquire about your property and you are tempted to enter into a purchase agreement, how can you protect yourself from non-productive involvement? A Realtor should pre-qualify prospects bringing you Qualified Buyers.

Are you willing to admit Strangers to your home? Accepting unescorted strangers can play havoc with your family life. A Realtor using an Electronic Lockbox can identify the realtor who brought prospects into your home and when.

Selling your home can be a time-consuming assignment. You are literally married to the property and the inconvenience can be overwhelming. You have stay close to the property or you may miss the one buyer you’re seeking.

Financing is very frequently the key to a successful housing transaction. Buyers without the right advice and information may not see their way clear to buy your home. Your Realtor is able to help your buyer structure the right financing to meet his objective and yours.

How do you solve prospect problems? Your best buyer may well be someone who already owns a home, and whose decision to buy another property is premised on selling their present one. Your Realtor can sometimes arrange interim financing or a guaranteed sales agreement executed on the existing property.

It is difficult to Negotiate your own position. A Realtor should be prepared to counsel both yourself and the potential buyer, so the differences can be bridged and a transaction successfully consummated.

Once you’ve agreed to sell, there’s the matter of clearing title, obtaining financing, arranging insurance, working with lawyers and other agencies. You can avoid costly mistakes by relying on professionals who control and safeguard your housing investment. Use a Realtor®.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Prices are going to drop $50K!

I don’t think so, but a dear friend of mine who is also a realtor heard this from her client. I, myself, also heard someone say that they will not buy in this market because they expect prices to drop $25-35K. This is absolutely ridiculous!! But, unfortunately, people believe this because of what they’ve read in the media.

There was a great article in this Sunday’s Orlando Sentinel (10/15/6), “Signs point to a healthier-than-expected real estate market,” (pg H-51). I’ve been professing this since the beginning of this year.

We are basically in a normal market & that we’ve been going through a market correction. I just didn’t expect mortgage rates to remain this low. I really thought that they would inch up to the 7% range by years end. It looked like we were going there, but they have retreated to the approximately 6% level. That is absolutely fantastic! What that really translates to is market affordability for many that might have been locked out with higher interest rates.

What we are seeing now is a “correction” to a previously overheated market leading us toward “normal” market conditions. I do not foresee a “crash” that so many have been professing and many fear. Prices need to adjust. It comes down to the basics, that we learn in Economics 101, of supply & demand. With an oversupply (10 months at present for the Greater Orlando area) you need to market your home accordingly. Too many home sellers think that this is the summer of 2005 & won’t adjust to this reality, at least in their mindset.

I still see homes being placed on the market that are wholly overpriced. This is just ridiculous. This home will just sit & then the realtor needs to ask the home seller for a price reduction. Many in the industry are calling this a “price improvement,” but let’s get realistic, we all know what it is. I, as a realtor, cannot see why some people wish to take overpriced listings. OK, so you will have your name on a sign rider in front of this home, but that will stay there for quite a while. As a consumer, people have to wonder when they see a home sit on the market for such a long time. The homeowner may wish to price it high, but the realtor at the same time needs to take the blame as well. This is just poor marketing.

According to the article author, Kenneth Harney of the Washington Post Writers Group & Doug Duncan, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, “Not only to the doom reports ignore the positives in the marketplace – mortgage rates in particular – but the rhetoric is just way overwrought.”

Until next time – MARC IT SOLD!

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Off the Wall

OK, So this post has nothing whatsoever to do with Real Estate. I just don't understand where the heck people are coming from. In this case, I'm referring to that little lever on the left side of our steering column - you know the blinker, the turn signal. There are more vehicles on the road every day and the total disregard of some people to others is just so unfathomable. Is it just too much effort to notify someone that you are changing lanes or making a turn? When the hell did we become a society with a total disregard to others. The horray for me - the hell with you club. YEAH!!

I was driving on I-4 a couple of days ago & there was this person (I think it was a man. Yeah, I know here it comes.) who made at least 5 lane changes in traffic (I stopped counting at that point) and did not once use his turn signal. I mean the hell with him if he wants to put his life in danger, but to add someone else's to that equation - BS!! I can hear some already saying, 'Well they were far enough away that I could do that safely.' Excuse my potty mouth, but BFS!!

Yes, I know that our society has changed drastically with the advent of our technology. Yes, we want these quicker - we can find them quicker. It still amazes me that in the matter of nanoseconds I can have several, probably thousand, answers to a search on the internet. That just boggles the mind. But, the absence of common courtesy & decency is just not acceptable. I know that things are cyclical, but then what are we heading towards - to be barbarians again? What is wrong with saying 'Thank You' & 'You're Welcome'? What is wrong with holding the door for someone? What is wrong with slowing down in a parking lot for a pedestrian (because it is against the law to do otherwise)?

Is it me? I do not feel that I have a problem with change. I've always considered myself very adaptable. Please let me know what you think.

Thanks again for your indulgence. Until next time - MARC IT SOLD! That is if I don't get run down in a parking lot & off the road by someone not using there turn signal.