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Buying Real Estate With Your IRA

by Tucker Robbins

You probably already know that you can invest your IRA money in stocks and bonds and even in mutual funds if you so desire, but did you know that you can also invest those IRA funds in real estate?  Doing so, however, is a bit complicated, and IRS rules concerning such purchases must be followed to the letter.  

IRAUsually, when you take money out of an individual retirement account before you reach age 59 1/2, the IRS considers these premature distributions. In addition to owing any tax that might be due on the money, you'll face a 10 percent penalty charge on the amount.  This is not the case, however, when you use the money to buy your first investment real estate.  (Note: Technically, you don't have to be purchasing your very first home or building. You qualify under the tax rules as long as you, or your spouse, didn't own a principal residence at any time during the previous two years.)  You can use up to $10,000 in IRA funds toward this purchase. If you're married, and you and your spouse are both first-time buyers, you can each pull from retirement accounts, giving you $20,000 to use.

The restrictions are many (and perhaps time-consuming) and include the following:

  • You will need to find an IRS custodian who handles these investments (and the options are currently limited).  Generally banks and brokerage firms do not handle IRA distributions for real estate transactions.
     
  • Only the custodian may handle your IRS funds.
     
  • The type of property you buy must be for investment only and may not be used by you or by relatives. 
     
  • All proceeds from the investment will go back into your IRA fund.  Likewise, however, all expenses must be paid from that fund, so you must have enough liquidity in your IRA to cover such costs.
     
  • You must let the IRS know that you used the retirement money early for a tax-acceptable purpose by filing Form 5329.
     
  • You must use the IRA funds within 120 days of withdrawal to pay qualified acquisition costs. This includes the costs of buying, building or rebuilding a home, along with any usual settlement, financing or closing costs.

The above information applies only to traditional IRSs.  To learn about the procedure for an Roth IRA, click here.

Information courtesy of New Castle County Realtor Tucker Robbins, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

New Castle County Real Estate Market Watch for January 2015

by Tucker Robbins

new castle real estate

Information courtesy of New Castle Realtor Tucker Robbins, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

How To Find The Best Real Estate Agent for Your Needs

by Tucker Robbins

Buying or selling real estate is a complex procedure, so it’s important to select a competent, honest agent who will skillfully represent your best interests throughout the entire process.  As you begin your search for property or for a handshakenew owner of your home, keep your eyes and ears open.  Notice the names on real estate signs in your neighborhood, ask friends and relatives for referrals, attend open houses in your target area to meet the agent on duty, and check the real estate section of your community newspaper,

Once you have compiled a list of names, you will next want to determine if the person is a Realtor, agent, or broker.  A Realtor is someone who is licensed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), is bound by a Code of Ethics, and has access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). 

As you prepare to interview the New Castle County real estate agents on your list, be sure to discuss the following topics:

  • The price range of most of their transactions.  Some agents specialize in high-end properties and won't give their best effort on properties under a set value. If they usually deal in fixer-uppers, they may not have the experience to navigate "Millionaire's Row".
     
  • Their familiarity with and experience in your target area.  If you're buying, a Realtor should be able to provide you with information on the community, the schools, taxes, traffic, nearby amenities .and other facts. If you're selling, you want your agent to be able to talk to prospective buyers about these details.
     
  • The amount of time they can give you—and availability to meet at your convenience.  If you need someone on weekday evenings or can meet only in the morning, will the agent be able to accommodate you?
     
  • What services can you expect from them? In addition to helping you buy or sell real estate, interviewing potential clients, previewing and showing property, discussing sales conditions, drawing up and presenting offers, holding open houses, and writing contracts—all the while meeting deadlines and hand-holding when necessary—you should also expect your agent to be current on marketing strategies, federal/state programs, and area real estate trends and comps.
     
  • References from previous clients.  Listen to what their past customers have to say. Google their names, too, and check the state for any licensing or disciplinary information.

Information courtesy of New Castle County Real Estate Expert Tucker Robbins.

5 financial fitness habits to begin in the new year

by Tucker Robbins

While many people focus on personal health goals in the New Year, the beginning of the year is also a great time to check your financial fitness. So how can you whip your finances into shape?

budgetSouth University College of Business, Virginia Beach faculty member Dr. Alan Harper says everyone should adopt these five financial habits in 2015:

1. Establish a budget

Harper says the first step in taking control of your finances is to establish a budget. "It is extremely important to know how much money is coming in, where it's going, and allocating it appropriately," he says. "Having a budget allows you to gain a broader understanding of your spending habits."

Make sure your budget includes allowances for food, clothing, gas, and even entertainment, Harper advises.

2. Start saving

Your budget should also include money set aside for emergencies. Harper says the old rule-of-thumb that three month's salary is enough to have in your bank account no longer applies in our current economy.

"We found in the last recession that people who lost their jobs tended to stay out of work much longer than three months," he says. "You should have six months to a year's worth of income in savings, just in case."

Harper says you should also try to put away 15 percent of your take-home income toward your retirement. Many retirement savings options are available, including 401(k)s, Roth IRAs and individual retirement accounts. It is important to do your homework before deciding on a long-term investment strategy so that you are aware of terms, conditions and any fees associated with your options.

3. Manage your credit

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to check your credit history, and to look for any mistakes on your credit report, Harper advises. Mistakes on your credit report can cost you large sums of money in interest rates, or even keep you from being approved for a loan.

"The law requires the three major credit reporting agencies to provide you with one free credit report a year," Harper says. "Pull those reports and look for discrepancies. If you find one, file a dispute with the credit reporting agency and they will remove the item if it is incorrect."

Harper also says to check your FICO score on the report, make sure you have an understanding of what the score means, and how to improve it if the score is low.

4. Shop smart

Make it a priority to save money while you shop, Harper says. He encourages clipping coupons, and says purchasing membership cards to discount stores like Sam's Club and Costco can help you save money over time.

"Those stores will save you money in the long run on purchases like food, gas, and even personal care items."

5. Check your insurance

Setting aside time at the beginning of the year to check your insurance policies can also save you money. Harper advises that you should review your auto, home and life insurance to make sure you have the proper coverage.

"You want to make sure you aren't paying for coverage that you may no longer need, but you also want to make sure you have adequate coverage in case there is an accident or you need to make a claim," he says.

Many companies also offer discounted rates if you hold multiple policies with them. So, if your auto, home and life insurance policies are with different companies, you may want to explore the benefits of choosing just one company.

"It's also important to make sure your life insurance policies are sufficient to protect your family from a financial crisis in the event that something happens to you," Harper notes.

"Establishing a budget, saving, staying on top of credit and insurance, and shopping smart all take some work," Harper points out. "But the rewards to your personal and household bottom line are well worth the effort." (BPT)

Information courtesy of New Castle County Real Tor Tucker Robbins.

Millennials: How to make your home ownership dreams a reality

by Tucker Robbins

Owning a home is part of the American Dream, yet standards on income, credit and debt are making it tougher to buy a home than it was 10 years ago. Even though requirements are relaxing, only three out of five borrowers get approved.

home buyerWhile stricter standards make it tougher for young families to qualify for a mortgage, millennials said they understand why these standards exist and think the tougher requirements won't stand in their way of buying a home.

Because mortgage lenders use debt-to-income to evaluate a borrowers' ability to repay a loan, student debt is a growing burden on millennials interested in financing a home. Unlike medical debt, student debt carries an equal weight to credit card debt. Nearly half of those surveyed said it's unfair to weigh both types of debt equally.

As for the tougher requirements to getting a mortgage, millennials do think the tougher standards guard against risky loans and will help prevent another mortgage crisis. More than half say making it easier to get a mortgage will result in more foreclosures.

If you have student debt and want to buy your first home, here are a few ideas and tips to help you prepare:

  • Lower your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). DTI is your total monthly income as compared to your total monthly debt payments. Most lenders will only lend to you if your DTI is at or below 43 percent. So to lower it, try to increase your income by pursuing a promotion or raise, finding a higher-paying job or taking on part-time work. Decrease your required monthly debt payments by refinancing or consolidating student loans and paying down any credit card balances.
  • Get your credit score in order. Analyze your credit report before you start the home buying process. Dispute incorrect derogatory information and ensure all three credit-reporting bureaus list all of your positive information. Pay all your bills on time, reduce credit card balances to 30 percent of the credit limit or lower, and don't open new credit cards if you already have a few.
  • Save for a down payment. Make a budget for each month before it starts, with a plan for spending and saving, and stick to it. Stash away extra money from bonuses, overtime or financial gifts on your birthday or holidays. Find a roommate to help pay your rent or move into a less-expensive rental. Do freelance or contract work on the side. Sell unneeded stuff on Craigslist. (BPT)

Information courtesy of Wilmington DE Realtor Tucker Robbins.

 

Tips For Avoiding Identity Theft After a Move

by Tucker Robbins

The previous blog about preventing identity theft during a move dealt primarily with precautionary steps to take from your old residence to thwart clever criminals.  So you’re now safely ensconced in your new  home. And you can breathe a sigh of relief, right?

identity theftActually, no.  Unfortunately, there are clever identity thieves waiting at that end of your relocation, also, and your efforts to outwit them must continue at your new address.  Read on for more advice:

  • Once you have reached your new home, check to make certain that you have all the important papers and documents you carried with you—and immediately put them in a safe, secured place.
     
  • Locate and unpack the box containing your electronic possessions—tablet, IPhone, computers, etc.  Account for each one and consider changing your passwords.
     
  • Carefully look through your bank statements to make certain that there are no unauthorized charges.  You might also think about requesting new credit reports to be sure that your status hasn’t changed significantly.
     
  • Make certain that you are receiving your mail at your new address.  If you are missing any statements, checks, and the like, report those losses immediately.
     
  • Contact your old neighbor to verify that he/she is collecting any mail that arrives to the prior address.  Arrange for it to be mailed to you or go by and pick it up, if possible.
     
  • If you have to cancel any bank accounts or credit cards because of your relocation, close the account, cut up any cards associated with the account, and shred unneeded papers.
     
  • Replace the locks on immediately- preferably before you even move in, as the old tenants could still have keys.
     
  • Be diligent and cautious when providing personal information, especially your social security number, to new doctors, organizations, or schools. 
     
  • After the move set up a “safe zone” where you store important papers and can work on private matters away from the eyes of visitors to your new home, repairmen, utility workers, and strangers.

Although you may not be able to protect your identity 100%, you can go a long way in ensuring peace of mind by being proactive, diligent, and aware, especially during a move.

Information provided by Wilmington Real Estate Expert Tucker Robbins.

 

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Contact Information

Photo of Tucker Robbins Real Estate
Tucker Robbins
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
3838 Kennett Pike
Wilmington DE 19807
(302) 777-7744 (direct)