What Is the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax?

Woman works on her tax returnsEstate planning can help you pass on assets to your heirs while potentially minimizing taxes. When gifting assets, it’s important to consider when and how the generation-skipping tax transfer (GSTT) may apply. Also called the generation-skipping tax, this federal tax can apply when a grandparent leaves assets to a grandchild while skipping over their parents in the line of inheritance. It can also be triggered when leaving assets to someone who’s at least 37.5 years younger than you. If you’re considering “skipping” any of your heirs when passing on assets, it’s important to understand what that means from a tax perspective and how to fill out the requisite form. A financial advisor can also give you valuable guidance on how best to pass along your estate to your beneficiaries.

Generation-Skipping Tax, Definition

The Internal Revenue Code imposes both gift and estate taxes on transfers of assets above certain limits. For 2020, you can exclude gifts of up to $15,000 per person from the gift tax, with the limit doubling for married couples who file a joint return. Estate tax applies to estates larger than $11,580,000 for 2020, increasing to $11,700,000 in 2021. Again, these exemption limits double for married couples filing a joint return.

The gift tax rate can be as high as 40%, while the estate tax also maxes out at 40%. The IRS uses the generation-skipping transfer tax to collect its share of any wealth that moves across families when assets aren’t passed directly from parent to child. Assets subject to the generation-skipping tax are taxed at a flat 40% rate.

This tax can apply to both direct transfers of assets to your chosen beneficiaries as well as assets passed through a trust. A trust can be subject to the GSTT if all the beneficiaries of the trust are considered to be skip persons who have a direct interest in the trust.

How Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Works

Generation-skipping tax rules cover the transfer of assets to people who at least one generation apart. A common scenario where the GSTT can apply is the transfer of assets from a grandparent to a grandchild when one or both of the grandchild’s parents are still alive. If you’re transferring assets to a grandchild because your child has predeceased you, then the transfer tax wouldn’t apply.

The generation-skipping tax is a separate tax from the estate tax and it applies alongside it. Similar to estate tax, this tax kicks in when an estate’s value exceeds the annual exemption limits. The 40% GSTT would be applied to any transfers of assets above the exempt amount, in addition to the regular 40% estate tax.

This is how the IRS covers its bases in collecting taxes on wealth as it moves from one person to another. If you were to pass your estate from your child, who then passes it to their child then no GSTT would apply. The IRS could simply collect estate taxes from each successive generation. But if you skip your child and leave assets to your grandchild instead, that removes a link from the taxation chain. The GSTT essentially allows the IRS to replace that link.

You do have the ability to take advantage of lifetime estate and gift tax exemption limits, which can help to offset how much is owed for the generation-skipping tax. But any unused portion of the exemption counted toward the generation-skipping tax is lost when you die.

How to Avoid Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax

Accountant prepares a tax return

If you’d like to minimize estate and gift taxes as much as possible, talking to a financial advisor can be a good place to start. An advisor who’s well-versed in gift and estate taxes can help you create a plan for transferring assets. For example, that plan might include gifting assets to your grandchildren or another generation-skipping person annually, rather than at the end of your life. Remember, you can gift up to $15,000 per person each year without incurring gift tax, or up to $30,000 per person if you’re married and file a joint return. You’d just need to keep the lifetime exemption limits in mind when scheduling gifts.

You could also make payments on behalf of a beneficiary to avoid tax. Say you want to help your granddaughter with college costs, for example. Any direct payments you make to the school to cover tuition would generally be tax-free. The same is true for direct payments made to healthcare providers if you’re paying medical expenses on behalf of someone else.

Setting up a trust may be another option worth exploring to minimize generation-skipping taxes. A generation-skipping trust allows you to transfer assets to the trust and pay estate taxes at the time of the transfer. The assets you put into the trust have to remain there during the skipped generation’s lifetime. Once they pass away, the assets in the trust could be passed on tax-free to the next generation.

This strategy requires some planning and some patience on the part of the generation that stands to inherit. But the upside is that members of the skipped generation and the generation that follows can benefit from any income the assets in the trust generates in the meantime. Trusts can also yield another benefit, in that they can offer asset protection against creditors who may file legal claims against you or your estate.

Another type of trust you might consider is a dynasty trust. This type of trust can allow you to pass assets on to future generations without triggering estate, gift or generation-skipping taxes. The caveat is that these are designed to be long-term trusts.

You can name your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and subsequent generations as beneficiaries and the transfer of assets to the trust is irrevocable. That means once you place the assets in the trust, you won’t be able to take them back out again so it’s important to understand the implications before creating this type of trust.

The Bottom Line

Man works on his tax returns

The generation-skipping tax could take a significant bite out of the assets you’re able to leave behind to grandchildren or another eligible person. If you’re considering using this type of trust to pass on assets or you’re interested in exploring other ways to transfer assets while minimizing taxes, it’s wise to consult an estate planning lawyer or tax attorney first.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to your financial advisor about how to best shape your estate plan to minimize taxation. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect with professional advisors in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized recommendations for advisors online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Creating a trust can yield some advantages in your estate plan. In addition to helping you minimize tax liability, the assets in a trust are not subject to probate. That’s different from assets you leave behind in a will.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/ljubaphoto, ©iStock.com/baona, ©iStock.com/svetikd

The post What Is the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Expert Homebuying Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

Buying a house is a big decision, but it can feel especially overwhelming to place an offer on a home less than 24 hours after seeing it for the first time. Plus you’re under pressure to outbid several other buyers — or risk losing the house.

While these circumstances might sound extraordinary, they’re not. With housing inventory nationwide at an all time-low — down 22% from last year according to the National Association of Realtors — it’s no wonder buyers are competing for the same few houses.

I was in this exact position last fall. Here are seven key takeaways from my experience buying in a seller’s market.

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

In order to be competitive in a hot seller’s market, you will need to line up your financing in advance.

Besides all the usual suspects, like saving up for a down payment and improving your credit score, you’ll also want to get a pre-approval letter from your bank. It states that a bank would approve you for a mortgage of a certain amount, and acts as a guarantee to the seller that you can actually afford to buy their house.

This is where it helps to know your budget up front.

“It’s important to understand that the strength of financing is a key consideration a seller takes into account when selecting an offer,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel.

No seller wants to risk accepting an offer that might fall through. Aand since pre-approval letters can take some time to get, have one ready before you find your dream house.

Be Friendly With Neighbors

This might sound crazy, but making a good impression on your new neighbors can actually make a difference when it comes time for a seller to review offers.

Since you’ll likely be visiting the home at least once before making an offer, be prepared to talk to any neighbors you might run into. In close-knit neighborhoods, or ones where people share resources (like an HOA), sellers might care a bit more about the type of person they sell the house to.

If you happen to meet a neighbor when visiting the home, introduce yourself and make a good impression. You never know how much their opinion of you might factor into any final decisions.

Submit an Offer Quickly

After you’ve seen a house, and decided you love it, be prepared to submit an offer quickly— as in, ASAP.

Work with your real estate agent to determine how many other offers the seller already has (or expects to get) and then be prepared to draft something up that day. In our case, we toured our home for the very first time at 11 a.m. on a Monday — it came on the market the evening before — and made an offer by 4 p.m. that same day.

If that sounds fast, it is. But by the time we submitted our offer, the seller already had three others. This is where it helps to have a great real estate agent on your side.

“Having a realtor who can get your offer submitted quickly is crucial,” said Erik Wright, owner of New Horizon Home Buyers. “You want to get your offer in front of the seller first, and make it strong. Purchase price is the obvious factor and in a competitive market, houses often go for over asking price. However, a strong offer has several factors and it depends on what’s most important to the seller.”

Work with your real estate agent to find out what matters most to the seller — is it money, closing quickly, something else entirely? Then make sure your offer addresses their needs.

Minimize Your Contingencies (Within Reason)

Another way to win over your seller (and prevail in any bidding wars) is by keeping your contingencies to a minimum.

Contingencies are the contractual stipulations buyers and sellers must meet before the deal can close. Unsurprisingly, sellers don’t like to have too many of them to deal with. Contingencies can include such things as requesting a seller to make certain repairs, getting a home inspection, or even the fact that you’ll need to sell your old house before being able to buy the new one.

“In a really aggressive seller’s market, a home buyer who has to sell a current property should do so before placing an offer on another home,” said Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “Don’t always assume that the seller will take the highest price. Other conveniences can play a factor in gaining the seller’s attention, especially things like faster closing times and less restrictions.”

While my partner and I didn’t make the highest offer on our house, we did have the fewest contingencies — mainly, we didn’t ask too much of our seller in the way of repairs, or have another house to sell in order to afford the new one.

All that said, there are certain contingencies you should never forgo, and a home inspection is one of them. Getting your home inspected is hugely important, since inspectors will often find things even the sellers weren’t aware of. No matter how much you love a house, don’t be afraid of exercising your right to an inspection.

According to buyer protection laws in most states, sellers are required to report any findings in home inspections to subsequent buyers. In other words, if an inspector finds something wrong with the house, the seller will have to deal with it one way or another— either with you, or the next buyer should you choose to drop out of the deal.

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Make a Generous Earnest Money Deposit

When trying to woo your seller in a competitive market, it helps to make a generous earnest money deposit. An earnest money deposit is a good-faith deposit requested by the seller when you enter into a contract to buy the house and typically run anywhere from 1% to 3% of the sale price of the home.

When deciding how much of an earnest money deposit to include in your offer, keep in mind that whatever amount you give comes off the price of the home (and is returned to you if the deal falls through). In other words, there’s no reason to be cheap. If you can, go slightly above the seller’s requested deposit amount. Even if it’s just a little more than what they’re asking, that gesture of good faith might just be what gets you the house.

A row of houses on a cul de sac in a suburban neighborhood.

Offer Above Asking Price

Wait. Why would anyone make an offer that’s above asking price? Because the competition did it first, and in a hot seller’s market, offering above asking price is often what it takes to even be considered.

Upping your offer may not break the bank as much as you’re fearing. “With interest rates so low these days, offering more than what the seller is asking may not make a drastic difference in your overall monthly payments,” real estate agent Pavel Khaykin of Pavel Buys Houses said.

Let’s say the listing price on your dream home is $320,000 and you’re able to put down a 6% down payment. That leaves you with a mortgage of roughly $301,000. For a 30-year fixed mortgage at an interest rate of 3%, that translates into $1,269 monthly payments. Now let’s say you decide to bid a little higher on the home and offer $10,000 over asking price. This would only bump up your monthly payment (assuming you qualify for that low interest rate) by $42.

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

In a hot seller’s market, you’ve got to be ready to move fast. Often this is more of a change in mindset than anything else. When my partner and I first started looking at homes, we considered ourselves casual buyers — that is, until our dream home came on the market late one Sunday night. From there, things moved quickly. We saw the home, made an offer, were under contract by morning, and spent the next month and a half going through the process of closing on the house.

If you’re serious about finding your dream home in the next few months, the best thing you can do is know what you want from the outset, and get your ducks in a row to make a compelling offer when you find it. Maybe this means making a list of your must-haves in a house, and working to improve your credit score. It might also mean reaching out to a real estate agent before you need one, and getting that pre-approval letter in place.

Although inventory is low, new houses come on the market all the time.

Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s DC Home Is Available To Rent—for $18K a Month

Ivanka Jared DC rental up for rentrealtor.com, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Here’s a real estate tip for folks joining the incoming Biden administration: A rental vacancy has opened up in the tony DC neighborhood of Kalorama—an area known for foreign diplomats and political heavy hitters.

Ivanka Trump and her husband, ex-presidential adviser Jared Kushner, have decamped for Florida, following in the footsteps of her father, former President Donald Trump.

Now, the couple’s former rental is in search of a new tenant. It’s available to lease for $18,000 a month.

The recently renovated home with six beds and 6.5 baths has all kinds of style points. It’s billed as “one of the most well-known and photographed houses on the planet—given its recent tenants.”

During the Trump years when the upscale abode served as the DC home of the first daughter and her family, it attracted protests and candlelight vigils, according to the Washingtonian. The 2017 gathering shown below was to protest Trump’s immigration policies.

On the other hand, the Washington Post recently reported that the mansion’s bathrooms were off limits to the couple’s Secret Service detail. As a result, the security team had to rent a nearby studio apartment at a rate of $3,000 a month—which ended up totaling more than $100,000 over the years, according to the Post.

Bathroom access aside, the 1923 home has been “meticulously maintained by the landlord and former notable tenants,” the listing asserts. Details of the 7,300-square-foot layout include crown moldings, recessed lighting, and wood floors throughout.

Plus, the “very contemporary” interiors boast high-end finishes and electrical updates made within the past four years.

And you might catch a glimpse of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama in the neighborhood. The couple live just a “stone’s throw away,” the listing notes. That proximity to power might appeal to a house hunter joining the Biden administration.

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Watch: The D.C. Neighborhood That Power Brokers Ivanka Trump and the Obamas Call Home

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While new listing photos aren’t yet available, the images from 2017 showcase a modern, minimalist living space in a neutral palette decorated with abstract art.

Stone stairs lead to the front door.

realtor.com

Exterior shot of a deck

realtor.com

The living room features a fireplace and plenty of space for oversized furniture. The sleek kitchen with a long, white island looks to have everything you need to whip up a meal (or unpack takeout). The kitchen also has room for a table and adjoins a family room.

A formal dining room features a fireplace and recessed lighting. The master suite includes French doors, another fireplace, and cool tones.

Down south, the home’s former residents are apparently leasing a luxury condo in Miami, according to the Wall Street Journal. But their long-term plans look to involve a 2-acre lot they reportedly purchased on uaexclusive Indian Creek Island for the jaw-dropping sum of $32 million.

Rodrigo Valderrama with Keller Williams Capital Properties holds the rental listing.

The post Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s DC Home Is Available To Rent—for $18K a Month appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

New to Market: Matt Damon’s Zen Los Angeles Home Asks $21 Million

As part of his plan of leaving Los Angeles and moving his family to the Big Apple, Matt Damon has now listed his Pacific Palisades home for sale. And he’s hoping to cash in big from the sale, asking $21 million for the Zen-inspired contemporary home set in one of LA’s most desirable neighborhoods.

Recently listed with Eric Haskell, an agent with celebrity real estate brokerage The Agency, Matt Damon’s house is an architectural masterpiece with 7 bedrooms, 10 baths, tons of distinct design features and some pretty extraordinary amenities. The Academy Award-winning actor will be trading all this for a 6,000-square-foot penthouse in Brooklyn, New York, having broken records last year by paying $16.745 million for the top floor unit of a famous former hotel, The Standish.

inside matt damon's beautiful house in los angeles
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams

An architectural gem with striking features & Instagram-worthy interiors

Designed by award-winning architect Grant Kirkpatrick, founding partner of leading-edge design studio KAA Design Group, Matt Damon’s house is an extraordinary contemporary home that showcases masterful craftmanship throughout its 13,508-square-foot interiors.

With a modern-yet-timeless design, the house is anchored by a breathtaking atrium with 35-foot mahogany vaulted ceilings. The interiors are bathed in natural light and mix warm wood elements with natural stone, giving the whole space an inviting, relaxing vibe. Other striking features that deserve a shout-out: clerestory windows and glass walls that fuse the indoors with the outdoor areas.

two-story-atrium-with-vaulted-ceilings-in-matt-damons-house
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
inside matt damon's house, living room
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
inside matt damon's house, living room and dining room
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams

The family room opens to the magnificent chef’s kitchen with custom mahogany cabinetry, Bluestone countertops and stainless steel Viking, Wolf and Miele appliances. The kitchen then opens to the expansive backyard retreat (but more on that in a minute).

All in all, Matt Damon’s soon-to-be former Los Angeles abode packs 7 bedrooms and 10 baths across 13,508 square feet of space. The primary suite comes with its own private terrace, dual dressing rooms, massage room and a spa-style bath with soaking tub and expansive shower. Pretty much every room offers leafy property and treetop views, adding an extra note of serenity to this wonderfully Zen-inspired home.

kitchen in Matt Damon's house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million.
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
Inside Matt Damon's house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million.
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
primary suite in matt damon's los angeles house
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
massage room in matt damon's house
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
beautiful bedroom in matt damon's house in Los Angeles
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams

Amenities galore and a wonderful backyard retreat

Most celebrity homes tend to outdo themselves when it comes to amenities and bonus rooms and Matt Damon’s house is no exception. Interior amenities include a game room, bar, office, gym, plush media room, staff quarters and wine storage and tasting room. And that’s just what you’ll find inside the house.

Outside, the modern home has quite a few amenities that invite calm and relaxation (perfectly in tune with the rest of the house), including an expansive pool, spa, a cascading waterfall, koi pond and Hawaiian-inspired Lanai with a covered lounge and alfresco dining terrace. To appeal to the little ones — Damon is a father of four — there’s also a nice children’s play area.

Pool and outdoor area of Matt Damon's Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades.
Pool and outdoor area of Matt Damon’s Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades. Image credit: Alexis Adams
outdoor lounge and alfresco dining area in matt damon's $21 million house
Pool and outdoor area of Matt Damon’s Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades. Image credit: Alexis Adams
kids playground in matt damon's house
Playground outside Matt Damon’s Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades. Image credit: Alexis Adams

Matt Damon’s next home is vastly different from his Los Angeles digs

The Academy Award-winning actor, who is starring in the highly anticipated Ridley Scott-directed The Last Duel (to be released this year), will soon be leaving Los Angeles behind. The move has long been planned, with Damon and wife Luciana Bozán Barroso having purchased a Brooklyn Heights penthouse two years ago for a record-breaking price.

The couple paid $16.745 million for a 6-bedroom, 6,201-square-foot penthouse at The Standish — a historically significant converted building that was originally built in 1903 as a Beaux Arts hotel. At the time, Damon’s purchase set a new record for the borough, making him the owner of the most expensive property ever sold in Brooklyn.

Despite the fact that the penthouse consists of several units merged for extra space, the actor will be downsizing considerably. And the loss in square footage is matched by a significant downgrade in outdoor space — though it’s worth noting that Matt Damon’s new home does have an expansive terrace, a rarity for New York City. There’s no Zen backyard pool though, so we’re pretty sure the Good Will Hunting actor will, at times, miss his Pacific Palisades retreat.

More beautiful celebrity homes

Check Out this Beautiful House the Hemsworth Brothers Just Sold in Malibu
Wayne Gretzky is Selling his $22.9M California Home Designed by ‘The Megamansion King’
Morgan Brown Re-Lists Stunning West Hollywood Home Amid Split from Actor Gerard Butler
Chrissy Teigen & John Legend Buy $17.5M Beverly Hills Mansion

The post New to Market: Matt Damon’s Zen Los Angeles Home Asks $21 Million appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

Mortgage Rate vs. APR: What to Watch For

It’s time for another mortgage match-up: “Mortgage rate vs. APR.” If you’re shopping for real estate or looking to refinance, and you’ve seen a certain mortgage rate advertised, you may have noticed a second, similar percentage adjacent to or below that interest rate, possibly in smaller, fine print. But why? Well, one is the mortgage [&hellip

The post Mortgage Rate vs. APR: What to Watch For first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

8 Hidden Problems in the Bedroom You Might Not Spot in a Home Video Tour

bedroom virtual tourFeverpitched

Video tours have quickly become the norm in the COVID-19 era as a safe way to get a closer look at the house you want to see in person. And while no doubt the kitchen and living room are high on your list to check out, the bedroom deserves more than a passing glance.

After all, a bedroom isn’t just a place to catch some zzz’s; it’s also a place that can function as a retreat or a quiet workspace. For your kids, it’s a room to play, do homework, and host sleepovers. And sure, a bedroom’s size and closet space are important—but they’re not the only things you should ask to see during a video tour. In fact, glossing over the bedroom could mean huge peeves after you buy—or worse, real problems that cost you money.

Here are some potential issues you might find hiding in the boudoir.

1. It might not actually be a bedroom

“Many listings will call a bonus room a bedroom even if it does not have a closet and a window, which is technically not correct, ” says John Gluch, founder of the Gluch Group in Scottsdale, AZ.

The legal requirements for classifying a room as a bedroom vary by state. Still, while taking the video tour, you should verify that bedrooms have a door and a window as two means of escape in an emergency.

The ceiling should be tall enough for a person to comfortably stand, and the square footage sufficient to accommodate a bed.

Be sure to ask your agent if the room is legally considered a bedroom.

2. There’s no privacy

Photo by Creative Window Designs 

Have your agent scan the windows and sills to check their condition. Take note of features such as triple-pane or tilt-and-turn windows.

Finally, check the view.

“You’ll want to know if a large, beautiful window in the master bedroom lacks privacy and looks right into a neighbor’s yard,” says Jennifer Smith, a Realtor® with Southern Dream Homes in Wake Forest, NC.

3. The fixtures and outlets are dated or in bad shape

“Buyers’ eyes tend to naturally go toward the beautifully made bed with lots of accent pillows and the art hanging on the walls,” Smith says. “But it’s important to remember to look at the more permanent features of the room that you’ll have to live with day to day.”

Ask your agent to zoom in on things like the flooring, ceiling fan, light fixtures, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and heating and cooling vents. Is there a radiator hiding behind the headboard or an air conditioner in the window?

Be sure to find out how many outlets are in the room. Older houses often have fewer outlets, and they may be the outdated, two-prong variety, which isn’t grounded.

4. The early morning sun will wake you up

Photo by Gaetano Hardwood Floors, Inc.

Oodles of natural light is a coveted feature—unless the morning sunlight wakes you up hours before your alarm goes off.

“Many Realtors and home buyers who visit a property at varying times throughout the day unintentionally fail to consider what the exposure is like at 5:30 a.m. with the sunrise,” says Gluch.

Curtains and blinds are obvious solutions, but you may not want to cover windows that showcase a beautiful view or are placed high in a vaulted ceiling.

5. Your furniture won’t fit

Whether it’s a large master suite or a children’s bedroom, pay attention to how much furniture is in the room and how it’s arranged, Smith says.

“Staging declutters and depersonalizes a space as much as possible, so buyers should think about how their current belongings will fit or if they’d have to buy all-new furniture,” says Smith.

Ask the listing agent for the dimensions of the bed and/or dresser for comparison. But if the dresser is missing, it could mean the bedroom has a large closet with organizational options.

Ask to see inside all the closets, and make note of the size, shelves, and other organizational components.

6. The bedrooms are in an inconvenient location

It’s easy to get disoriented when you’re taking a live video tour, so “buyers shouldn’t forget to pay attention to where bedrooms are located in the house,” Smith advises.

Ask yourself how the locations of the bedroom will suit your lifestyle. Will you be more comfortable with the kids’ bedrooms on the same floor? Is the master suite adjacent to a busy living room or kitchen? Where are the bathrooms in reference to the bedrooms?

7. The master bathroom doesn’t offer separation

Photo by Elad Gonen 

A spacious master suite isn’t just a place to rest your weary head at night. It’s your future dream retreat, where you can sink into a soothing bath or luxuriate in a rainfall shower. But if you want a bit of privacy, be mindful of how the master suite is laid out.

“Many people overlook the fact that there is not a door between the bedroom and the bathroom,” says Gluch. “Likewise, many floor plans now have a water closet—a small toilet room with a door—but do not have a door separating the bedroom from the rest of the bath.”

8. There might be potential safety hazards

If you’re looking at a multilevel home or a house with a bedroom in the basement, verify fire escape routes.

“Consider potential safety hazards such as how difficult it might be to drop a fire escape ladder out of an upstairs bedroom window or a ladder up from a basement bedroom,” says Gluch.

Basement bedrooms should have an egress window, and upper-floor windows should be clear of obstructions like trees or sections of the house that would make an emergency exit difficult.

The post 8 Hidden Problems in the Bedroom You Might Not Spot in a Home Video Tour appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

7 Tax Benefits of Owning a Home: A Complete Guide for Filing This Year

tax benefits of owning a homeTijana Simic / Getty Images

What are the tax benefits of owning a home? Plenty of homeowners are asking themselves this right around now as they prepare to file their taxes.

You may recall the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—the most substantial overhaul to the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years—went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The result was likely a big change to your taxes, especially the tax perks of homeownership.

While this revised tax code is still in effect today, the coronavirus has thrown a few curveballs. For one, the Internal Revenue Service has delayed filing season by about two weeks, which means it won’t start accepting or processing any 2020 tax year returns until Feb. 12, 2021. (So far at least, the filing deadline stands firm at the usual date, April 15.)

In addition to this delay, many might be wondering whether the new realities of COVID-19 life (like their work-from-home setup) might qualify for a tax deduction, or how other variables from unemployment to stimulus checks might affect their tax return this year.

Whatever questions you have, look no further than this complete guide to all the tax benefits of owning a home, where we run down all the tax breaks homeowners should be aware of when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. Read on to make sure you aren’t missing anything that could save you money!

Tax break 1: Mortgage interest

Homeowners with a mortgage that went into effect before Dec. 15, 2017, can deduct interest on loans up to $1 million.

“However, for acquisition debt incurred after Dec. 15, 2017, homeowners can only deduct the interest on the first $750,000,” says Lee Reams Sr., chief content officer of TaxBuzz.

Why it’s important: The ability to deduct the interest on a mortgage continues to be a big benefit of owning a home. And the more recent your mortgage, the greater your tax savings.

“The way mortgage payments are amortized, the first payments are almost all interest,” says Wendy Connick, owner of Connick Financial Solutions. (See how your loan amortizes and how much you’re paying in interest with this online mortgage calculator.)

Note that the mortgage interest deduction is an itemized deduction. This means that for it to work in your favor, all of your itemized deductions (there are more below) need to be greater than the new standard deduction, which the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled.

And note that those amounts just increased for the 2020 tax year. For individuals, the deduction is now $12,400 ($12,200 in 2019), and it’s $24,800 for married couples filing jointly ($24,400 in 2019), plus $1,300 for each spouse aged 65 or older. The deduction also went up to $18,650 for head of household ($18,350 in 2019), plus an additional $1,650 for those 65 or older.

As a result, only about 5% of taxpayers will itemize deductions this filing season, says Connick.

For some homeowners, itemizing simply may not be worth it. So when would itemizing work in your favor? As one example, if you’re a married couple under 65 who paid $20,000 in mortgage interest and $6,000 in state and local taxes, you would exceed the standard deduction and be able to reduce your taxable income by an additional $1,200 by itemizing.

__________

Watch: Ready To Refinance? Ask These 5 Questions First

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Tax break 2: Property taxes

This deduction is capped at $10,000 for those married filing jointly no matter how high the taxes are. (Here’s more info on how to calculate property taxes.)

Why it’s important: Taxpayers can take one $10,000 deduction, says Brian Ashcraft, director of compliance at Liberty Tax Service.

Just note that property taxes are on that itemized list of all of your deductions that must add up to more than your particular standard deduction to be worth your while.

And remember that if you have a mortgage, your property taxes are built into your monthly payment.

Tax break 3: Private mortgage insurance

If you put less than 20% down on your home, odds are you’re paying private mortgage insurance, or PMI, which costs from 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.

But here’s some good news for PMI users: You can deduct the interest on this insurance thanks to the Mortgage Insurance Tax Deduction Act of 2019—aka the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act—which reinstated certain deductions and credits for homeowners.

“These include the deduction for PMI,” says Laura Fogel, certified public accountant at Gonzalez and Associates in Massachusetts. (This credit is retroactive, so talk to your accountant to see if it makes sense to amend your 2018 or 2019 tax return in case you missed it in past years.)

Also note that this tax deduction is set to expire again after 2020 unless Congress decides to extend it in 2021.

Why it’s important: The PMI interest deduction is also an itemized deduction. But if you can take it, it might help push you over the $24,800 standard deduction for married couples under 65. And here’s how much you’ll save: If you make $100,000 and put down 5% on a $200,000 house, you’ll pay about $1,500 in annual PMI premiums and thus cut your taxable income by $1,500. Nice!

Tax break 4: Energy efficiency upgrades

The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit was a tax incentive for installing alternative energy upgrades in a home. Most of these tax credits expired after December 2016; however, two credits are still around (but not for long). The credits for solar electric and solar water-heating equipment are available through Dec. 31, 2021, says Josh Zimmelman, owner of Westwood Tax & Consulting, a New York–based accounting firm.

The SECURE Act also retroactively reinstated a $500 deduction for certain qualified energy-efficient upgrades “such as exterior windows, doors, and insulation,” says Fogel.

Why it’s important: You can still save a tidy sum on your solar energy. And—bonus!—this is a credit, so no worrying about itemizing here. However, the percentage of the credit varies based on the date of installation. For equipment installed between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, 26% of the expenditure is eligible for the credit (down from 30% in 2019). That figure drops to 22% for installation between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021. As of now, the credit ends entirely after 2021.

Tax break 5: A home office

Good news for all self-employed people whose home office is the main place where they work: You can deduct $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet, of office space, which amounts to a maximum deduction of $1,500.

For those who can take the deduction, understand that there are very strict rules on what constitutes a dedicated, fully deductible home office space. Here’s more on the much-misunderstood home office tax deduction.

The fine print: The bad news for everyone forced to work at home due to COVID-19? Unfortunately, if you are a W-2 employee, you’re not eligible for the home office deduction under the CARES Act even if you spent most of 2020 in your home office.

Tax break 6: Home improvements to age in place

To get this break, these home improvements will need to exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. So if you make $60,000, this deduction kicks in only on money spent over $4,500.

The cost of these improvements can result in a nice tax break for many older homeowners who plan to age in place and add renovations such as wheelchair ramps or grab bars in bathrooms. Deductible improvements might also include widening doorways, lowering cabinets or electrical fixtures, and adding stair lifts.

The fine print: You’ll need a letter from your doctor to prove these changes were medically necessary.

Tax break 7: Interest on a home equity line of credit

If you have a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, the interest you pay on that loan is deductible only if that loan is used specifically to “buy, build, or improve a property,” according to the IRS. So you’ll save cash if your home’s crying out for a kitchen overhaul or half-bath. But you can’t use your home as a piggy bank to pay for college or throw a wedding.

The fine print: You can deduct only up to the $750,000 cap, and this is for the amount you pay in interest on your HELOC and mortgage combined. (And if you took out a HELOC before the new 2018 tax plan for anything besides improvements to your home, you cannot legally deduct the interest.)

The post 7 Tax Benefits of Owning a Home: A Complete Guide for Filing This Year appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Home Buyer’s Guide: How to Purchase a Property, From Start to Finish [Free Download]

Purchasing a home is both exciting and a major milestone in your life, so you’ll want to be prepared for what to expect to avoid a stressful process. Having an in-depth look at the buyer’s journey can help you make informed and confident decisions.

From finding a real estate agent, negotiating offers to getting your keys on closing day, we’ve outlined all the steps of a home buyer’s journey in our free Buyer’s Guide, which you can download here.

The Buyer’s Guide will cover the buyer’s timeline from meeting an agent to preparing for closing day. We’ve outlined the 8 steps in a home buyer’s journey below.

1. Working With An Agent

Every city is filled with thousands of agents, but not all are equal. We believe it is important to choose an agent that you feel confident with. Before you commit to working with an agent, make sure you have a good understanding of the knowledge and experience they offer. It’s important that you ask your questions before making the decision to work with them.

2. Financing Your Purchase

Before you set a budget and start looking for a home, you’ll have to understand what costs to expect when purchasing a home. Here are some of the major costs involved:

  • Deposits
  • Down payments
  • Mortgage insurance
  • Closing costs

You’ll also want to calculate a rough estimate of the down payment that you will be expected to pay. Depending on the price of your home, your minimum down payment can range from 5% to 20%. If you’re interested in learning more about how to finance your home, you can get our free Financing Your Purchase guide here.

3. Searching For A Home

An important part of searching for a home is understanding how the home will fit with your needs and your lifestyle. You’ll want to consider home ownership as well as different types of properties and features. 

Types of Home Ownership

  • Freehold Ownership
    • You purchase the home and directly own the lot of land it sits on
  • Condominium Ownership
    • For condos, you own specific parts of one building: titled ownership of your unit, along with shared ownership in the condo corporation that owns the common spaces and amenities
  • Co-Op Ownership
    • You own an exact portion of the building as a whole and also have exclusive use of your unit

Types of Properties

  • Detached houses
  • Semi-detached houses
  • Attached houses
  • Condos and apartments
  • Multi-unit

Tip: Depending on your budget and desired location, you may need to be flexible to find a home that meets your needs. By being willing to trade some features for others, you’ll have more options to choose from.

4. Negotiating An Offer

When you are making an offer to purchase a home, the purchase agreement should include the essential components listed below. Your agent can help put together an offer that is compelling, while safeguarding your interests and puts you in a competitive position to secure your new home.

You’ll also have the opportunity to choose the conditions that you’ll want in your offer. Some of these may include a home inspection or a status certificate review.

5. Financial Due Diligence

Whenever you make an offer on a house, you need to provide a deposit to secure the offer. The deposit is in the form of a certified cheque, bank draft, or wire transfer; it’s held in trust by the selling brokerage and is applied towards your down payment if your offer is successful.

There are two types of deposits:

  • Upon acceptance
    • The deposit is provided within 24 hours of the seller choosing your offer
  • Herewith
    • The deposit is provided when the offer is made

6. Property Due Diligence

To firm up a deal or educate yourself more on the state of the property, you’ll likely want to have a home inspection if you’re purchasing a house. If you’re purchasing a condo, then your lawyer will review the building’s status certificate.

Home Inspection

A home inspector will assess elements of the home such as the walls, windows, plumbing, heating and roof to judge the condition of the home. This process is non-invasive and is essential to help provide buyers with a good idea of the home’s current condition and the confidence of putting in an offer. 

Tip: The home inspector will provide a summary of suggested work along with a minimum budget estimate for the repairs needed. 

Status Certificates

If you’re purchasing a condominium, you’ll need to obtain a status certificate from the condo board or management for your lawyer’s review. This document will include valuable information about the condo’s budget, legal issues, reserve fund, maintenance fees and future fees increases – and the lawyer can help identify potential red flags

7. Preparing For Closing

Before the big day, you’ll want to keep a checklist of what to do ahead of time. Some of these include:

  • Review your contract
  • Complete a final walkthrough of the home
  • Purchase home insurance
  • Meet with your lawyer
  • Know how much cash you’ll need
  • Secure cash required for closing

8. Closing Day

Closing Day is when you’ll finally get the keys to your new home! In addition to bringing the cash required for closing, you’ll have to sign a few more documents which will include:

  • Mortgage loan
  • Title transfer
  • Statement of adjustments
  • Tax certificates

For the full details on the home buyer’s journey including examples, advice, pictures and sample calculations, download a copy of our free Buyer’s Guide here.

The post Home Buyer’s Guide: How to Purchase a Property, From Start to Finish [Free Download] appeared first on Zoocasa Blog.

Source: zoocasa.com

Greystone Mansion: the Most Familiar House You’ve Never Visited

There’s this mansion in Beverly Hills that a large part of the world’s population has already seen, even though they might not realize it.

It’s a historic house that’s been used in endless Hollywood movies, TV series, and music videos. After you finish reading this article, you might just realize that you’ve seen this house before, too. Well, now you will also know its history, and when you see it again on your TV screen (and more than likely, you will), you’ll recognize it. 

The place we’re referring to is known as Greystone Mansion or Doheny Mansion, and it’s located at 905 Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills. The Tudor Revival mansion was originally completed in 1928, after three years’ worth of construction and a total cost of over $4 million — an insane amount at the time. 

aerial view of Greystone Mansion
Greystone Mansion aerial view. Image credit: Luxury Architecture

The inception of Doheny Mansion

The 55-room, 46,000-square-foot mansion lies on a 16-acre site within Trousdale Estates. It was designed by architect Gordon Kaufmann and built by the P.J. Walker Company. The land was actually a wedding gift from oil tycoon Edward Doheny to his son, Edward ‘Ned’ Doheny, and his new wife, Lucy Smith. 

Edward Doheny was an American oil tycoon who drilled the first oil well in Los Angeles in 1892. His story was depicted in the Academy Award-winning movie There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Interestingly enough, the movie was actually filmed at Doheny Mansion. 

Ned Doheny’s house became known as Greystone because it was built mainly of stone, and has a grey, stone-cold appearance. The house took roughly three years to build, and included stables, kennels, tennis courts, a gatehouse, a swimming pool and pavilion, a lake with babbling brooks and waterfalls, and even a fire station. 

old photo of the Greystone Mansion driveway
Greystone Mansion driveway. Image credit: Friends of Greystone Mansion

A bittersweet move-in for the Dohenys

Unfortunately, Ned Doheny didn’t get to enjoy his new home for too long. Just four months after moving into Greystone Mansion, Doheny was found dead in the house, alongside his secretary and friend, Hugh Plunkett. The case was ruled a murder-suicide, however, some claim that there’s more to that story.

Doheny was killed by his own gun, and he was not buried with the rest of his family, but in a different cemetery, just a few yards away from where Plunkett was laid to rest. This has led some to believe that Doheny might have committed suicide, however, this is just a theory that certainly adds a bit of mystery to Greystone Mansion. 

Greystone Mansion exterior
Greystone Mansion exterior. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

Following Ned Doheny’s death, his wife Lucy remarried and lived in the house with her children until 1955. Greystone Mansion was later sold to Paul Trousdale, the developer of Trousdale Estates, who then sold it to Henry Crown of Chicago. The businessman never actually lived in the house, but leased it out to film studios — and that’s how Greystone’s prolific movie career started. 

Greystone Mansion, Hollywood’s favorite filming location

Over the decades, Greystone Mansion has been featured in numerous Hollywood movies and TV series, including classics like The Big Lebowski, Eraserhead, The Witches of Eastwick, Death Becomes Her, Batman & Robin, The Bodyguard, Dark Shadows, The Prestige, The Social Network, and X-Men.

The mansion has also made appearances in TV series, including Alias and The Young and the Restless, and it also played the part of Chilton Academy in Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls scene filmed at Greystone Mansion
Gilmore Girls scene filmed at Greystone Mansion, featuring the home’s famous staircase

Last but not least, Greystone Mansion has been featured in commercials and even music videos. You might have already toured the house alongside Robert Downey Jr., in the music video for Elton John’s single I Want Love. Let us refresh your memory:

In 1965, the City of Beverly Hills purchased Greystone Mansion, and a few years later, the property became a public city park. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, as Doheny Estate/Greystone.

The mansion continues to be used as a filming location and a destination for special events such as music festivals, fundraisers, and even weddings. Greystone Mansion houses the Beverly Hills Flower & Garden Festival, the yearly Catskills West drama camp, and The Annual Hollywood Ball, among others. 

Greystone Mansion public gardens
Greystone Mansion public gardens. Image credit: Love Beverly Hills

A carefully preserved slice of L.A. history

Greystone Mansion is a remarkable feat of architecture, and most of its original features have been carefully preserved over the years. The property features hand-carved oak banisters, balustrades and rafters, seven chimneys, each designed by a different artist, a movie theater room, a billiard room, a hidden bar, and a two-lane original Brunswick bowling alley. The alley was renovated so that it could be used by the filming crew for There Will Be Blood. 

The bowling alley at Greystone Mansion
The bowling alley at Greystone Mansion. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

There’s a grand hall with distinctive, black-and-white marble floors and a very famous staircase. In fact, the staircase at Greystone Mansion has been featured in numerous productions, due to its majestic appearance. 

The grand hall and staircase at Greystone Mansion
The grand hall and staircase at Greystone Mansion. Image credit: Love Beverly Hills

Greystone Mansion also included a servant’s quarters that took up two entire floors on the east wing and was built to accommodate a live-in staff of 15.

Greystone Mansion plan. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

There was also a living room with a balcony where musicians performed at special events, and a kitchen pantry with a secret wall safe that held the family’s silver and gold kitchenware.

Greystone Mansion interior
Greystone Mansion interior. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

This stunning, stone-clad Beverly Hills mansion continues to attract filming crews, and we’re definitely going to be seeing it again on the big screen. At the same time, its beautiful, lush gardens and its rich history will continue to attract visitors from around the world.

Here’s a further glimpse into the mansion’s history, to keep you occupied until you get a chance to visit in person:

Featured image courtesy of The City of Beverly Hills

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The post Greystone Mansion: the Most Familiar House You’ve Never Visited appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com