In 1968, mortgage rates were 8.5%. The next year, rates went down to 7%. Homeowners could buy a 15-20% larger home for the same payments if they could find someone to assume their mortgage.
FHA and VA mortgages were very popular in certain price ranges and they allowed anyone to assume the mortgage regardless of the credit. If you could find a person to take over your note, you were free to qualify for another mortgage.
In October 1981, mortgage rates reached 18.63%. A $250,000 mortgage had a monthly principal and interest payment of $3,896.46. As astronomical as that rate sounds, people were still buying homes and were good investments.
Four years later, they were still over 12%. The monthly payment was $2,571.53. Believe it or not, people were excited to be paying only 2/3 what they had to pay a few years earlier.
Fast forward to late 1991 when the rates went below 9% and that same payment was to $2,015.16. At the turn of the 21st century, rates were 8.15% and that made the payment $1,860.62. Not much change in rates during that decade.
If we look around the housing bubble, late 2008, the rates were 6.04% and the payment was $1,505.31. By 2009, mortgage rates had fallen below 5%. The lowest mortgage rate was 3.31% on November 2012 with a payment of $1,096.27.
Rates fluctuated for the next few years until now, and most of the experts are expecting them to be above 5% by the end of 2018. Rates have increased each week for the last six weeks to 4.38% with payments of $1,240.12.
The average mortgage rate for the past 47 years is a little over 8%. The real estate and mortgage markets are cyclical. Rates have been historically low for a long period but will probably continue to rise. Most buyers don’t pay cash and mortgages enable them to purchase now. Based on history, even 8% would be an excellent rate. Until it reaches that point again, everything lower is a bargain.
The new tax law that was signed into effect at the end of 2017 will affect all taxpayers. Homeowners should familiarize themselves with the areas that could affect them which may require some planning to maximize the benefits.
Some of the things that will affect most homeowners are the following:
- Reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for loans made after 12/14/17. Existing loans of up to $1 million are grandfathered and are not subject to the new $750,000 cap.
- Homeowners may refinance mortgage debts existing on 12/14/17 up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, so long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the existing mortgage being refinanced.
- Repeals the deduction for interest on home equity debt through 12/31/25 unless the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.
- The standard deduction is now $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for joint returns. It is estimated that over 90% of taxpayers will elect to take the standard deduction.
- Property taxes and other state and local taxes are limited to $10,000 as itemized deductions.
- Moving expenses are repealed except for members of the Armed Forces.
- Casualty losses are only allowed provided the loss is attributable to a presidentially-declared disaster.
The capital gains exclusion applying to principal residences remains unchanged. Single taxpayers are entitled to $250,000 and married taxpayers filing jointly up to $500,000 of capital gain for homes that they owned and occupied as principal residences for two out of the previous five years.
Not addressed in the new tax law, the Mortgage Forgiveness Relief Act of 2007 expired on 12/31/16. This temporary law limited exclusion of income for discharged home mortgage debt for principal homeowners who went through foreclosure, short sale or other mortgage forgiveness. Debt forgiven is considered income and even though the taxpayer may not be obligated for the debt, they would have to recognize the forgiven debt as income.
These changes could affect a taxpayers’ position and should be discussed with their tax advisor.
Are you planning to welcome an aging parent or in-law into your home? While you may be worried about how your immediate family will adjust, the move will most likely be toughest of all for your Mom or Dad. Keep in mind that giving up one’s independence is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make. And no matter how unsafe or untenable their current living situation may be, it’s still home, and parting will be extremely emotional.
Here are some ideas for smoothing the transition for everyone involved.
- Choose a space carefully. While you may think you picked out the perfect room for your parent, consult with them first. They may have needs and preferences you haven’t even considered, such as an attached bathroom for privacy. In just about all cases, an entry-level room is a must, even for the healthiest of seniors.
- Make room for what matters to them. You may think that spiffing up the room with a new flat-screen TV or walk-in closet would be something your parent or in-law would love, however, a sunny spot for your Mom’s orchid collection may be way more important to her. Being able to continue the small pleasures from their former life will go a long way toward making Mom or Dad happy under your roof.
- Enlist caregivers. While you may be gung-ho to step up and start caring for your parent, it may be the last thing they want. For many seniors, privacy and dignity is paramount and they would much rather have an aide tend to their needs instead of their child. Discuss this openly with your parent and make the necessary arrangements.
- Be clear about money matters. Make no assumptions about the financial arrangement that will take place once Mom or Dad moves in. If they are able and willing to contribute monthly, set up a finite amount in advance. This will help you avoid uncomfortable discussions about paying for groceries, chipping in for rent, etc. In addition, make sure all of your parent’s personal bills are in order and scheduled for automatic payments before they move in.
- Remember, everyone needs space. You may be looking forward to being one big, happy family under the same roof, but remember that everyone needs their private time, most of all your parent. Don’t be shy about retiring early to your room to settle in with a good book, going for a long walk, or out for a date night. Mom or Dad will most like welcome the chance to have their own alone-time, too.
In 2007, Congress passed an energy act that required new energy-efficient standards for basic light bulbs. Standard incandescent bulbs are being phased out and eventually will be unavailable.
The alternative bulbs differ considerably in price. LED bulbs are the most efficient but they also cost the most. CFLs are a less expensive alternative. Interestingly, the more expensive replacements offer lower operating costs and longer economic life.
One approach will be to inventory the different types and quantities of light bulbs you need in your home. Then, research either online or a big box store to find out what each type of bulb costs. This information will give you a total budget for converting your lighting.
It could be a significant expense to replace all the bulbs in a home at one time, especially when most of the bulbs still work. That’s where a plan might make sense.
Replace the bulbs in the rooms where the lights are used the most such as kitchen, family rooms and bathrooms. There may be other “rooms” where the lights are used frequently like certain hallways or stairs. Outside flood lights for security purposes may be a large energy consumption.
Bulbs can vary in light output measured in lumens as well as color of light from warm white to bright white and daylight. The lighting label required by the Federal Trade Commission on all packaging will help you determine which will give you the most bang for your buck.
Throughout the year, getting cash from an ATM is normal for many people. ATM’s are available 24 hours a day and they’re located in bank branches, convenience stores, grocery stores, malls, airports, sports venues and on street corners.
Unfortunately, the convenience aspect can compromise personal safety especially if you are distracted or not paying attention. Planning for an ATM withdrawal and applying common sense can help you avoid trouble.
- Be aware of your surroundings throughout the entire transaction like people sitting in a nearby parked car or someone offering to help you.
- Safeguard your PIN. Don’t share it with anyone. Don’t write it down. Don’t use your birthdate, last four digits of your phone number or other obvious numbers.
- If there are other people at the ATM to make a withdrawal, shield the keypad when entering your PIN number.
- Keep your car doors locked and windows raised, except for your driver’s window, when using a drive-up ATM.
- Minimize the time spent at the ATM by being prepared with your card ready, what you plan to do and do not count your money until you are in a safe place away from the ATM.
- Take your receipt with you and destroy it if you decide to discard it.
- Be aware that some thieves use skimming devices to steal account and PIN numbers. If something doesn’t look “just right”, consider finding another machine to use.
- Especially at night, pay attention to locations with adequate lighting and being visible from the street. Don’t compromise your safety just because it is convenient.
- After you have your money, pay attention to see if someone might be following you. If you are concerned, go to a nearby police or fire station or well-trafficked business and call the police.
- If you feel uneasy during a transaction, cancel it, remove your card and LEAVE.
There may be a time in the not too distant future when we don’t have a need for cash anymore. Until that time, paying attention to simple safety precautions can help protect us during the holidays and throughout the year.