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Rental Property Depreciation

Rental Property Depreciation

Rental Property DepreciationWhen it comes to investments, real estate can offer some solid benefits. Property appreciation, tax breaks and in the case of rental property, recurring cash flow can turn your property into a money generating investment. You can take advantage of these benefits whether you use a Property Management company or self-manage your own rentals.

In many ways, the law seems to favor real estate investors and rewards those who make this type of investment with a number of opportunities for different tax breaks.

One tax break that many landlords benefit from is depreciation; which allows you to recover some of the cost of income-producing property through yearly tax deductions. You can do this by depreciating the building, and in some cases, the personal property inside by deducting some of the cost each year on your tax return.

Generally speaking, depreciation results in more money in a landlord’s pocket. Since the single largest expense that most landlords have is the cost of the rental property, being able to depreciate it allows you to claim a significant portion of that expense by spreading it out over the course of a number of years, thereby reducing the amount of tax that you owe.

If you’re currently a landlord or are thinking about buying an investment property, having a basic understanding of the deductions that you may be eligible for can help you to save significantly on your tax bill. In the case of depreciation, it can also help you to prepare for unexpected costs down the road, allowing you to manage your portfolio and structure your deals in a way that will benefit you the most.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at depreciation for rental property, and see how you can use this deduction to reduce your tax bill.

What Is Depreciation?

Depreciation, in a nutshell, is based on the concept that some assets are depreciating in value.
While real estate in most areas is an appreciating asset increasing in value, the truth is that the building itself along with some of the property inside the building, like appliances, are things that’ll wear out over time. As the years go by, property wears out, decays, or becomes otherwise unusable.

Depreciation is an annual tax deduction that landlords can take that reflects this cost.

With depreciation, landlords can depreciate the value of the building, land improvements, such as landscaping, as well as personal property items that are inside the building, but not physically part of it; for example, refrigerators, stoves, and carpet.

One thing that makes depreciation so valuable for landlords is the fact that you get to take it year after year. In the case of most rental properties, the cost of depreciation is spread out over the course of 27.5 years, making it a long-term benefit. Additionally, unlike many deductions, landlords don’t have to pay anything in order to claim depreciation, aside from the cost of the original asset, and owners are entitled to depreciation even if their property goes up in value over time, as is often the case.

Here’s a practical example of how depreciation works:

Example: Denise purchases a rental property with a depreciable value of $100,000. Because of this, she is entitled to a yearly depreciation deduction of $3,636 for the next 27.5 years (excluding the first and last year, when it will be somewhat less). The only thing Denise has to do to get these annual deductions is to keep the property as a rental, file a tax return, and do some simple bookkeeping. She doesn’t need to spend an additional penny on this property.

Rental Property Depreciation

Depreciation Recapture

Now, there’s a downside to depreciation that most people tend to overlook, that is, depreciation recapture.
Depreciation recapture is a small “Gotcha!” from your friends at the IRS, which requires you to pay 25% tax on any gain realized through depreciation.

So if you were to sell your rental property down the road, you’ll have to pay 25% tax on the total amount of depreciation deductions that you took over the years.

Of course, there are a few alternatives to this tax.

One alternative is using what’s known as a 1031 deferred exchange, or a “like-kind exchange”, which allows you to defer this payment. With an 1031 exchange, when you sell your property you can roll the depreciation into the next property that you purchase. The downside to this option, though, is that you’re simply deferring the tax. You’ll still have to pay recapture taxes when you sell the exchanged property in the future.

Another option is not selling the property at all, but instead keeping it as a rental and then passing it on to your heirs. When they inherit the property, they won’t have to pay your depreciation recapture taxes.

A third option is to sell the property at a loss, but of course, this is a far less popular option.

In most cases, the longer you wait before you sell, the less of an impact the depreciation recapture taxes will have. This is because you’ll have had many years to make use of the additional tax savings that accrued from using depreciation. Additionally, you may not be in the same tax bracket that you would have been in had you made the sale earlier on.

Keep in mind that there are a number of different ways that you can structure your investment properties and use tax deferral strategies to avoid depreciation recapture taxes. It’s a good idea to speak with an accountant to see what your options are and to find out how you can best take advantage of depreciation.

Depreciation Is Not Optional

At this point, you may be thinking, “Ok, I’ll just skip depreciation, and not claim it”.

Unfortunately, depreciation is not optional. You must take a depreciation deduction if you qualify for it. If you don’t, the IRS will still treat you as though you had. This means that if you sell your property, you’re still going to be taxed on depreciation deductions, even if you didn’t claim them.

If you have unclaimed depreciation currently, you can deduct the entire amount in one year. To do so, you’ll want to make what is known as an I.R.C. Section 481(a) adjustment and file IRS Form 3115 to request a change in accounting method. Generally, this type of change is granted automatically by the IRS, and you won’t need to file any amended tax returns. You may need to seek out an accountant, though, as it’s a confusing form.

What Can Be Depreciated?

First, there’s depreciation on the rental building itself. This usually accounts for the largest depreciation deduction that you can take.

With this deduction, the rental building itself (the structure) can be depreciated. The land that it’s sitting on, however, cannot. This makes sense when you think about it. While the house may be slowly wearing down with time, land doesn’t wear out or “depreciate” in the same way.

Secondly, personal property that’s a part of your rental business, can also be depreciated. This includes things like appliances or furniture in the house, as well as office or construction equipment, cars, and other vehicles that you own, and use for the rental properties.

Of course, only property that you own is able to be depreciated. You can’t depreciate property that you lease for your rental activity such as office space. Additionally, you aren’t able to depreciate property that’s solely for personal use. So no depreciation for your personal residence, and should you convert a rental property to a personal residence, you must stop taking the depreciation for the property. If a property serves as both a rental and for personal use, you may depreciate only part of its value; the percentage of the property used for rental purposes.

Finally, the amount of your depreciation is based on the cost of the property itself. The amount that you borrowed to purchase –i.e. the interest rate on the loan is irrelevant. You can, however, deduct interest on the mortgage, or for HELOCs that are used for the property.

How Does Depreciation Work?

Practically speaking, how do you go about claiming it on your tax return?

First, you must determine what’s known as your property basis, that is, how much the property’s worth for tax purposes.

Usually, your basis is the cost of the property, and any expenses of the sale such as real estate transfer taxes.

Land cannot be depreciated, so it must be deducted from the cost of the property.

Next, you must determine the depreciation period, or “recovery period” of the property or aspects in question, that is –how long the IRS says you must depreciate it for.

Real property placed into service after 1986 is depreciated under what’s known as the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). Under this system, the depreciation period for residential real property placed in service after 1986 is 27.5 years. Prior to 1987, different depreciation methods with different depreciation periods were in effect.

The periods are the same whether the property being depreciated is old or new. When you buy property, you start a new depreciation period beginning with year one, even if the prior owner previously depreciated the property as well. This makes no difference to you, though, your depreciation period starts when you purchase the property.

You then deduct a certain percentage of its basis each year during its recovery period.

Next, you’ll want to calculate your deduction amount. Your depreciation deduction is a set percentage of the basis of your property each year.

This percentage varies, depending on the depreciation method you use. All real property must be depreciated using the straight-line method. Under this method, you deduct an equal amount each year over the depreciation period, generally 27.5 years.

At the end of the day, depreciation can be a useful and often-necessary deduction that landlords can take. Just make sure you work with a good accountant, who can fill you in on depreciation, as well as depreciation recapture if you’re planning to sell the property down the road. This will allow you to structure your purchases in a way that will benefit you the most and will help to keep you from being hit with any unexpected taxes in the future.

To learn more about depreciation, be sure to check out the IRS Publication 946 (2017), How To Depreciate Property.

Here are some additional resources about Real Estate Tax Deductions and 1031 Exchanges:

Please Note: While this article contains information that we’ve learned from classes and from working with our clients over the years, please keep in mind that we are not tax professionals. This information is intended to inform and to guide only, and it is not meant to serve in place of tax advice from a licensed tax professional. These principles should only be applied in conjunction with a CPA. To learn more about depreciation as it applies to your own financial situation, please consult a tax professional.

shouldisellorrentmyhouse

Should I Sell or Rent my House?: Weighing your Options

You are a homeowner and for whatever reason, it’s time to move on. Maybe you’ve outgrown your house, perhaps there’s a new job waiting in another location or you’re just ready to move to a more appealing home in a different neighborhood. No matter what the reason, you are no doubt struggling with the question, should I rent or sell my house?

This decision often comes down to where you are in life and what your long terms goals are. If you don’t have a lot of cash reserves or investments, you might need the proceeds from the sale of your existing home to go towards the down payment on a new home. If on the other hand, you’re looking for investments, managing a rental property might be a great option for you.

Deciding Whether to Sell or Rent

There are a lot of different factors to consider before jumping into the world of rental property investing. Some of them are financial, while others have to do with the demands this type of investment can make upon your time and lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at the major considerations that will affect your decision.

Start with the money

Cash flow should be the primary focus when considering the financial side of the rental business. Just like it sounds this term describes how cash flows in and out of your accounts.

Cash can flow positive or negative, but for most people, positive cash flow from your rental property will be the goal.

There are rare exceptions to this principle, these exceptions usually involve taking losses for tax purposes, certainly not something most people are looking for.

The other reason you might consider taking the negative cash flow would be if you were pretty far into a 15-year loan. You would do this in order to pay off the house and own it free and clear.

Establishing Cash Flow

In order to establish cash flow, you’re going to have to do some estimating of both income and expenses. It’s important to be realistic about these numbers. When I work with a new property owner in our property management company, I tend to lean on the pessimistic side of these numbers.

If the property leases for more money and the expenses end up being less, our clients are pleasantly surprised.Click To Tweet

If the property leases for more money and the expenses end up being less, our clients are pleasantly surprised. If there is some kind of negative trend in the market, having forecasted from the worst case scenario means they’re less likely to get hurt. I suggest you do the same when making your estimations.

Your Property’s Income

Rental property income can come from a number of different sources. Some landlords offer various services and options to tenants for a fee. Services like landscape maintenance, cleaning and various insurance policies for late rent. It’s a good idea for the new landlord to keep it simple, this means using only the rent payment when calculating income.

Establishing Rental Rate

The first thing you need to establish is how much you can realistically lease your property for. You want to be realistic because you want the property to lease quickly, no matter what the condition of the rental market. Keeping it leased goes hand in hand with keeping the cash flow positive.

You have several options when it comes to pricing.

  1. There are free valuation websites like Zillow where you can get a ballpark idea of what your home could lease for. This gives you a starting point, but ultimately you’re going to want to do detailed research to get a more accurate estimation.
  2. You could ask a Realtor to do a rental analysis. They will most likely use data from the MLS (Multiple Listing System), this is a good option because the data is generally accurate and verified.
  3. Another option would be to do your own research by combing through sites that feature rental properties in your neighborhood. You can talk to neighbors in order to see what they know about rental prices as well as calling any “For Rent” signs to see what people are asking.
  4. Finally, you might use a property management company to manage the property. One of the primary services they provide will be pricing. Since they manage multiple properties and will usually have MLS access, their price is usually the most realistic.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to get the pricing right. Tenants tend to move in waves, this means they usually start looking 30 to 45 days prior to when they want to occupy. Additionally, they probably need to give notice to their current landlord. If you take the first couple of weeks testing your price, you may find your rental sitting vacant for a couple of months. This mistake will kill your cash flow.

It is important to be methodical about your pricing and please don’t use the ”This is how much I need to get method”. This method consists of the homeowner looking at their payment and adding a little profit in order to determine the rental rate. This doesn’t work because the market doesn’t care how much your payment is or how much profit you want.

Renters will be looking at everything available on the market. If your rental is overpriced they will more than likely politely pass leaving you clueless as to why they didn’t lease it. So, before you do anything else establish a fair market rental value for your property.

Your Property’s Expenses

Once you establish the fair market rental value for your property you can start to apply debits to that number in order to see if the cash flow will be positive. here is a list of expenses you’re going to want to use in order to figure out if this is going to work.

  • Mortgage: Add up your principal, interest, property taxes and insurance (landlord policy).
  • Taxes: You will need to pay federal income taxes on the net income (rent plus other money minus expenses) you receive from your rental property each year.
    • Each year when you file your tax return, you will add your net rental income to your income for the year, such as salary income from a job, interest on savings, and investment income.
    • Property Taxes were covered above in the Mortgage section. If you, not your lender make your own tax payments, you can add them here.
    • Owning a rental property allows you to make several tax deductions for things like interest and depreciation.
  • Operating expenses: This is a broad category
    • Advertising – Websites, Print, Social Media
    • Travel – Driving back and forth to the property
    • Cleaning and maintenance
    • Legal fees – Documents (leases, disclosures, etc.)
    • Credit and background checks
  • HOA Fees: If you live in a neighborhood that has an association you’re going to want to pay those fees yourself. Since late payments of HOA fees can bring serious consequences and fines, you don’t want to leave this one to the tenants. Having said this, you may want to roll the HOA cost into the rental rate.
  • Management fees: if you choose to use a property manager you will need to calculate their monthly fee along with any other additional fees into your expenses total. Using a property manager can eliminate other expenses along with a significant amount of time and hassle. if you are the least bit squeamish about dealing with tenants you owe it to yourself to talk to a property manager.
  • Commissions: if you or your property manager are putting the property into the MLS system for Realtors to show and help you lease, you’ll need to offer a commission which varies from area to area.

Once you’ve tallied all of your expenses and compared against the potential income you’ll receive from the property, you’ll have a better sense of whether or not renting versus selling is a good idea.

Your Time and Effort

In addition to the financial aspects, you should consider the effect managing rental properties will have on your personal life.

If you’re going to self-manage your rental property, you will need to handle the following:

  1. Advertising – The internet makes this a lot simpler than it used to be. You’ll still need to prepare ads, take photos, compile house details and post all of this information.
  2. Answering calls – No matter how automated you try to make the leasing process, tenants still want to talk to a human. They have questions and frankly, want to get a feel for what kind of person you are.
  3. Scheduling showings – Plan on showing the property at all times, even on evenings and weekends. People with 9 to 5 jobs are going to request this. In our experience, if someone is really looking for a house to rent they will carve out time during the day.
  4. Showing the property – This can actually be a lot of fun and it’s good to get to know your prospective tenants. One important word of warning don’t be wooed by their personality, you need to be objective and make your decision on the application and the data you get from that exercise. In other words, put a lot of weight on the tenant’s credit score, background check and references.
  5. Processing the application
    1. Pulling credit
    2. Checking background
    3. Calling References (previous landlords, employment & personal references)
  6. Preparing a lease – You can find a boilerplate lease online, but an even better idea is to contact a local real estate attorney and pay for a copy of their lease. Remember, every market is different and a local real estate attorney will most likely have a lease that takes into account aspects of your local market.
  7. Documenting the property condition – This is important because when your tenant moves out you need to be able to prove any damage claims you make against them prior to deducting any monies from their deposit. You want to avoid any opportunities for subjective opinions about property conditions and damages.
  8. Emergency Phone Calls – You should offer your tenants a way to reach you at anytime day or night in case of emergencies. To minimize these calls, it is a good idea to explain to the tenant who to call in case of certain types of emergencies. For example, in most cases, a gas leak should elicit a call directly to the gas company instead of the property manager.
  9. Ongoing maintenance- You’re going to want to make sure the property is regularly maintained. This means winterizing and de-winterizing sprinklers, cleaning and servicing the furnace and making sure smoke detectors and CO2 detectors are in proper working order. These items are important because carbon monoxide is so dangerous and landlords own much of a liability around it.
  10. Performing regular property inspections – Even the best tenants lose sight sometimes of the fact that this is your house. Regular inspections are necessary for a number of reasons:
    • Making sure all occupants are on the lease
    • Checking for unapproved pets
    • Verifying there are no illegal activities taking place
    • Checking for things like smokers in a non-smoking property
  11. Collecting Rent – This includes dealing with late and or unpaid rents.
  12. Evictions – The possibility of having to serve and process an eviction
  13. Preparing a property to release – At the end of the lease term, the property needs to be returned to a condition where it is ready to move into by another tenant. This can include:
    • Carpet cleaning
    • General cleaning throughout
    • Patch and paint of walls
    • Other maintenance items in the property
    • Rekeying of all locks
    • General landscape maintenance

Some homeowners have no problem with performing any of these items. But oftentimes, it is very time-consuming to find the right vendors and schedule all of the work to be completed in a timely and cost-effective manner. A property manager will handle all of this for the homeowner and this is one of the big benefits of using a property manager.

Other important reasons you might lease

You might consider renting your property if you have a desire to return to the area. Here in Colorado Springs, we often see military families that plan on returning to the area at retirement or when they’re through with their military service. For this reason, they will decide to put their home into a property management program or in some cases, manage themselves from a distance. The upside is that when they return they know exactly where they’re going to live. Additionally, pricing fluctuations don’t affect them as they don’t have to buy back into the market at a higher rate.

Another good reason to rent your home is the possibility of catching a rising equity tide. During the latest recession, we used a term referring to some of our homeowners as “accidental landlords”. These were people that were unable to sell their homes without writing a check and were not willing to walk away or go through the short sale process. These people put their homes up for rent and decided to weather the storm. Fast forward to the latest real estate boom, and many of these people have sold their homes at a tidy profit.

Some people have a genuine desire to own property and be a landlord. Every now and again you meet someone who just loves owning a lot of property and getting to know their tenants. They really don’t mind the hassles involved and always seem to be on the run and energized by what they do. Yes, these people exist but are rare.

The Upsides of Selling

You’re Done

Selling your home and walking away with a profit is a great feeling, especially in a seller’s market. Doing so can give you the flexibility to take advantage of other opportunities.

This money can potentially be a substantial amount of money which you might use this as a down payment on your next property. Many people love the prospect and the excitement of starting over in a new home.

Be aware that in an extremely hot seller’s market you will need to be able to find someplace to move to. Talk to anyone trying to buy in a hot market and you will soon learn about the stress and disappointment of navigating this type of market. This is a problem you don’t want to discover after your house is under contract.

Tax-free profit

If you’ve lived in your home for at least 2 out of the last 5 years prior to the sale, you may be eligible for an exclusion on any capital gains tax up to $250,000. If you are married and file jointly this amount doubles to $500,000 (2017). You’re not going to find a lot of other Investments that give you this kind of break.

Free Time

Handling a rental property as a homeowner takes a fair amount of time and effort. Re-read the section on Time and Effort and ask yourself if you are really ready to handle all of those responsibilities. Using a property management company alleviates most of these responsibilities, but selling your property alleviates all of the responsibilities once and for all.

Escaping Maintenance and Repairs

If your home is a maintenance nightmare, or in need of repairs, renting it out is probably a bad idea. The tenant will certainly expect the condition to be up to a livable standard. Repair requests will create a constant hassle and eat into your bottom line.

With a home in need of numerous repairs or remodeling, selling is most likely the best option. This allows you to deal with any repairs and deferred maintenance in one fell swoop, after the inspection and prior to closing. Once you negotiate those items, the maintenance and repair headaches are over.

Conclusion

This list will certainly get you thinking about the core issues that surround selling versus renting. Timing, lifestyle, income and a long list of other factors go into the decision to be a home seller or a landlord. This information should go a long way to get you pointed in the right direction.

As always, if you have any questions or help to get started selling or renting out your home, feel free to give me a call.

Additional Resources

Here are some helpful resources I used while putting this article together:

Converting Your Home To A Rental Property-Luke Skar

Should I Rent or Sell my House-Bill Gassett

Should I Sell or Rent My Home? Factors to Consider-Anita Clark

Pros and Cons to Selling a Tenant Occupied Property-Michelle Gibson

 

 

shopping

What You Should Know When Shopping for a Mortgage

Housing may be a necessity, but real estate is certainly an investment. In fact, it’s the investment of choice for many. In a recent survey, “Bankrate.com” discovered that 25% of the “Financial Security Index Survey” respondents answered “Real Estate” to the question: “Which would be the best way to invest money you wouldn’t need for more than 10 years?”

Investment choices

For most people, their home is the single largest investment that they’ll make –and it’s worth spending some time to make sure that investment is financed using the best loan possible.

Sadly, though, nearly half of all mortgage buyers don’t end up shopping for a mortgage first. This is unfortunate since shopping around can lead to a far better loan; savings that could add up significantly over time. For example, finding a lender that could give you even a 1% lower interest rate can easily represent a savings of thousands of dollars –per year.

Shopping for a mortgage

Sometimes, seemingly small things can make a big difference over the long haul. Here is a great article on just how interest rate can influence your buying power by Ellen Pitts

For homebuyers and investors alike, it’s important to obtain a favorable loan in order to get ahead. Much like buying a home below market value is something that savvy investors look for; the terms of the loan will also have a big impact on your investment.

To help make the process a bit easier, we’re going to walk you through the process, showing you how to shop for a mortgage.

What You Should Know: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

While shopping for a mortgage may sound confusing and overwhelming, the process itself is relatively straightforward.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB) has simplified the entire disclosure process in order protect consumers from predatory lenders. This means that rules are in place to help protect mortgage buyers. For example, mortgage brokers (but not lenders) must charge the same percentage on every deal, meaning they can’t just increase their margin “just because.” Other rules include the Ability-to-Repay (ATR) rule that requires lenders to make a reasonable, good-faith determination that prospective borrowers have the ability to repay their loans. These rules, and more help to provide strong protections for homeowners and are designed to help prevent risky lending practices which were common before the financial crash of 07/08.

With this in mind, there’s a lot that you can do, as a buyer, to find a loan that’s favorable. Let’s take a look at some steps that you’ll want to take when shopping for a loan.

Get Pre-Qualified

It’s an all-too-common scenario. A home buyer walks into a Realtor’s office to discuss buying a home. The buyer’s excited, and has been looking at properties online, and has a list of homes that they want to see. Unfortunately, though, the buyer hasn’t talked to a lender and hasn’t been prequalified. Sadly, it turns out that they can’t afford any of the homes that they were looking at. This is unfortunate and can be extremely disheartening.

To prevent this from happening, it’s a good idea to try to pre-qualify for a loan, before you start shopping. At Springs Homes, we do pre-qualification with home buyers as the first step in the home buying process. In order to pre-qualify, you’ll want to meet with a couple of lenders. You’ll give them some basic information about your current financial situation, including your credit score, wages, and the amount of money that you have for a down payment.

The goal at this stage is to see if you qualify for a loan, and if so, what terms you qualify for: how much can you borrow, and what type of loan you’ll be eligible for –such as a conventional loan, an FHA loan –a first-time homebuyer’s loan with a low-interest rate, or a VA loan.

Before you go, you’ll want to check your credit score. This will help lenders to see where you stand and will give you an idea about whether you should move forward with the mortgage lending process, or whether it may be better to wait a few months and work to improve your credit score. If you’re worried that asking for your credit score will hurt your credit, don’t be –you’re entitled to a free credit report every year. Generally, a score that’s lower than 760 can negatively impact the loan that you qualify for, and you may be required to pay a higher interest rate or pay a fee to keep the rate down.

Once you’ve taken a look at your credit score, you’ll know whether to move forward. If you proceed with the pre-qualification, you’ll want to ask your lender for a fee worksheet. This is a breakdown of the fees that they’ll be charging you, such as an origination fee and interest rate; as well as some costs that will be out of the lender’s control, including taxes and insurance. While the lender isn’t required to give you this, their refusal should certainly be a red flag and may indicate that you’ll want to shop elsewhere or go with a company that’s more transparent about their costs.

If your credit score is a bit lackluster, there are a few things you can do to bring your rating up.

Tips for Improving Your Credit:

  • Get a credit card –and make payments on time
  • Bring any past-due accounts current
  • Pay bills on time
  • Consider consolidating any credit card debt by moving it onto a card with a low-interest rate
  • Correct credit report errors
  • Become an authorized user on someone else’s card
  • Set up accounts with automatic payments
  • Try to maintain credit card balances that are lower than 30 percent of your credit limit

Start Home Shopping

Once you’re prequalified, you’ll have a much better idea about the type of properties that are within your price range. When shopping for a home, it’s generally a good idea to start out looking at properties that are on the low to mid-range of what you can afford, and then slowly raise the bar until you find a place that you’re happy with. You’ll also want to keep location in mind when searching. It’s one of the most important criteria for most people. Since it’s important to be near work, schools, and other places –it’ll be a key factor when making your decision. Plus, it’s one thing that can’t be changed unless you move again. You could always upgrade the kitchen at a later date, but location is something that’s a bit more difficult to change.

Full Loan Application

You’ve found a house, written an offer, and the offer has been accepted. Congratulations! This is an exciting stage of the home buying process.

Once you’ve reached this stage, you’ll want to send a copy of the contract to any lenders that you’re still considering after the pre-qualification process. You’ll also need to make a full loan application with any lender that you want to obtain a true estimate from.

What Is a Loan Estimate? Obtaining a Loan Estimate

The Loan Estimate form is a three-page document that lenders are required by law to give you after you apply for a loan. This form helps borrowers to understand the full cost of the mortgage, including fees and interest. It’s an easy way to compare mortgage options and can help you to discover which lender is offering the best loan.

Since October 3, 2015, the Loan Estimate has replaced the good faith estimate and the Truth in Lending Disclosure –except in the case of “Reverse Mortgages.”

The new form is set up to be simpler, and to eliminate any kind of closing table or last-minute bait and switch, thereby protecting uninitiated consumers. For an excellent detailed line by line description of the Loan Estimate Form, have a look at The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.

The Loan Estimate must be given to the borrower within three business days of loan application.

To submit an application all that is required is:

  • Your name
  • Your income
  • The property address
  • An estimate of the value of the property
  • The desired loan amount

Note: Your loan officer cannot require you to provide documents verifying this information before providing you with a Loan Estimate.

You’re not required to provide written documentation to obtain a Loan Estimate, and the only fee that can be charged is a small upfront fee for pulling your credit report, usually no more than $20.

Comparing Loan Estimates

It makes financial sense to shop around for the lowest interest rate that you qualify for –and the loan with the most favorable conditions. Fortunately, Loan Estimate forms make it easy to compare lenders.

Once you’ve obtained your Loan Estimates, you’ll want to take the time to look at what different lenders are offering. Comparing Loan Estimates is an important part of the home-buying process, and the best way to shop around for a mortgage.

The two areas that you’ll want to pay special attention to are origination fees and the interest rate. You can also look at things like prepayment penalties, what a late payment will cost you, and whether the lender intends to process your loan or sell it –if this matters to you. You’ll also want to check to see if there’s a balloon payment –a large one-time payment at the end of the loan term. Make sure you take the time to look at these different terms and conditions. The last thing you’d want is any surprises after closing.

You’ll also want to ensure that the monthly payments match your expectations and that you’ll have enough funds to pay your estimated cash to close.

If you find anything that you’re not sure about or if you have any questions, be sure to talk to the lender. They’ll be able to answer any questions you have.

Note: Make sure you compare the total dollar amounts if you’re looking at different-length terms. For example, a 15-year mortgage will have a higher interest rate, but will cost less in the long run because you’ll pay off the debt 15 years earlier.

Finally, keep in mind that while a loan is a commodity, the lender is not. An inexperienced or unprofessional lender can cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. For instance, missed closing dates, or neglecting to lock in an interest rate could all cost you significantly. Before you go with a lender, take the time to ensure that they’re experienced and reputable. Talk with people that you know to see if they have anyone they recommend, and research potential lenders online to see what people are saying.

Remember: the right loan can have a significant impact on your investment –so it’s worth taking some time to get this right. By shopping around, you can increase your chances of securing a lower interest rate, so do your research and find a lender that’s right for you.

Additional Resources for Shopping for a Mortgage:

Home Warranties: What Every Landlord Should Know

Home Warranties: What Every Landlord Should Know

If you are a landlord, then you are all too familiar with the frustration that comes when you find out that the heater has gone out at your rental unit, or that there’s a leak –yet again.If you’re tired of the frustrations that come from dealing with breakdowns, and costly repairs eating into your profits, there’s a solution that you may want to consider: purchasing a home warranty for your rental.

Today, you can buy warranties for almost anything, including homes. Home warranties are particularly popular with landlords, who know all too well that if something can go wrong at a rental, it will. A good home warranty can help a landlord to save a significant amount of money if costly repairs are necessary. It can also help landlords to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.

While home warranties can be invaluable for landlords who are interested in protecting their investment, it’s important to note that not all warranties are created equal. Each warranty is unique in terms of the coverage that it offers, the exclusions, and terms and conditions.

If you’re interested in a home warranty for your rental, there are a few things that you should know before purchasing one. Here’s a brief rundown on what, exactly, a home warranty is, the benefits and disadvantages of getting one, and finally, what you can do to ensure that you choose the best option for your property.

What Is a Home Warranty?

The term ‘home warranty’ is enough to cause some confusion for those who are unfamiliar.

Traditional warranties are a type of guarantee of the quality of a product or service, usually made by the seller or manufacturer to the buyer. Home warranties, though, are not guarantees, but instead, contracts to provide repairs and replacement for home systems and appliances that break down or fail due to normal wear and tear.

Home warranties were first started in 1971 by American Home Shield. The industry has grown considerably since then, and today dozens of companies offer home warranties. A few main players include American Home Shield, Total Protect, SEARS, and First American, as well as HMS Home Warranty and Old Republic Home Protection.

Some people may also confuse home warranties with insurance, but there are some distinct differences between the two. Insurance provides coverage for specific events, such as fire, flooding, and theft; while home warranties cover the components or major appliances in a home against breakdown.

The best way to think of a home warranty is to view it as a home services contract. Home warranties are designed to provide repairs for breakdown or damage to specific home components, as well as replacement if they cannot be repaired.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Home Warranties

Home warranty plans offer a number of advantages for landlords. If something goes wrong, you won’t have to start looking for an electrician or plumber –or rush to the rental to make the repairs yourself. Instead, you can just place a call to the home warranty company, and they’ll send someone out for you. Having a home warranty will also make it easier to budget for expenses and repairs, helping you to avoid being caught out by unexpected issues. You simply budget for the premium and keep some money for the service call fees. No need to worry about forking out hundreds of dollars all at once for a new water heater when the old ones goes out.

However, home warranty plans have some disadvantages too. Just like insurance, you pay for the plan even if you don’t end up using it in the end. Most policies cost a few hundred dollars, usually somewhere between $400-$800 per year. In some cases, it may work out to be more economical to pay for issues as they arise, rather than prepay for potential repairs that may or may not be required. Additionally, most warranty companies will attempt every repair before authorizing a full replacement. Another issue with home warranties is that you run the risk of claims being denied. If the home warranty company considers the breakdown to have been caused by neglect, improper use, or a pre-existing problem, they may choose not to accept the claim. Additionally, some landlords may realize when making a claim that their warranties don’t include coverage for the item in question. Finally, there is also the issue of wait times. Sometimes repairs can be delayed during high-demand seasons.

Most home warranties usually include the following:

  • Refrigerator
  • Dishwasher
  • Built-in microwave
  • Garbage disposal
  • Stove/Oven
  • HVAC
  • Electrical system
  • Plumbing
  • Washing machine and dryer
  • Ductwork
  • Ceiling fans
  • Water heater
  • Garage door opener

While more premium warranties may also include coverage for:

  • Sump pump
  • Pool
  • Ice maker
  • Stand-alone freezer
  • Well pump
  • Lawn sprinklers
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Roof repairs
  • Septic systems
  • Water filters

Things that are not usually covered include:

  • Structural issues
  • Problems that are the result of neglected maintenance
  • Damage caused by frozen pipes
  • Outdoor repairs
  • Permit fees
  • Disposal fee for old appliances
  • Rust
  • Improper installation
  • Mismatched systems
  • Pre-existing problems
  • Anything that’s outside of normal wear and tear

As always, the list of what is and isn’t covered will vary considerably from company to company so be sure to ask for a list of things that are covered when weighing up different options.

Tips for Selecting a Home Warranty

To be sure, having a home warranty can provide you with peace of mind if things go wrong, writes Anthony Giorgianni of Consumer Reports, “But you should also realize that the providers of these plans have built-in wiggle room that can make it easier for them not to make payments. As a result, hundreds of consumers have complained to the Better Business Bureau about their plans, often because they didn’t get the payouts they expected.”

To ensure that you find the best warranty for your needs, and to help prevent disappointment when it comes time to make a claim, you’ll want to make sure you understand exactly what’s included in your home warranty, and have a clear understanding of the terms and conditions.

With this in mind let’s take a look at how you can ensure that you find a home warranty that’s a good fit for you and your rental property. As always, being informed is key to ensuring that you make the best decision possible, and will help you to choose a warranty that’s right for you.

Read the Fine Print to See What’s Covered

When considering a home warranty, it’s important to read the fine print. Each home warranty is different, with their own set of particular inclusions, exclusions, and conditions. For example, some warranties will not cover washing machine repair, even if you opt for appliance coverage. Some, that claim to cover plumbing, may not cover common parts that often go out, such as faucets, but instead will only provide coverage for the pipes that are in the walls. Before signing up for a warranty program, make sure you take the time to read the contract carefully so that you fully understand what’s covered, and what isn’t.

Check online reviews

Next, you’ll want to ensure that you’re buying from a reputable company. Before signing an agreement, have a look at the Better Business Bureau and online review sites to see what people are saying; and to find out what their rating is.

Find Out How the Warranty Company Selects their Contractors

Another important consideration is how the company selects their contractors. Are they vetted in any way? How do they ensure they are qualified? How long have their vendors been working with them? Will they be able to guarantee that the work will be completed in a timely manner? You should also ask what happens if a vendor doesn’t meet your expectations. A reputable home warranty company should allow you to request that subpar vendors not be used for future call-outs.

Find Out What the Waiting Period Is

You’ll also want to keep in mind that most home warranties also include a waiting period between the date that you sign up, and when you can actually begin to use the service. Usually, this period is anywhere between 30-90 days.

See If the Company Will Work With Property Management Companies

If you have a property manager overseeing your property or plan to enlist the services of one at some point in the future, you’ll want to check with the home warranty company to see if they work with property management companies. Some companies will allow the landlord to keep a credit card on file to cover service call fees. Others, however, require payment from the tenant when the technician arrives –something that could lead to potential problems and complications.

See What the Service Fee Is

The service fee or call out fee is the flat rate that you’ll pay out-of-pocket for repairs. Similar to a deductible on an insurance policy, most service fees range between $75 and $125 per claim. In some cases, you’ll have the option to pay a higher service fee for a lower monthly payment.

See What the Limits of Liability Are

Most home warranties have a limit on the amount of money that they will pay out in a year. In some cases, the company may assign a specific limit to each item. For instance, if they have a $400 annual limit on dryers, it will only pay up to $400 each year for the dryer to be repaired or replaced. According to Reviews.com, half of the 17 home warranty companies that were analysed cap their coverage at $500. Limits can make or break a warranty, so be sure to find out where your coverage will be capped before making your decision.

Ask About the Recall Period

Often home warranty companies will provide what’s known as a “workmanship guarantee” for any repairs performed by one of their contractors. This means that if anything goes wrong with the repair or installation during a specific amount of time after the work was done, the home warranty company will repair it at no additional charge to you.

Ensure that the Coverage Is Right for Your Property

When purchasing a home warranty policy, you’ll want to make sure that it’s the right one for the property. You can choose warranties that include various degrees of coverage, including ones that cover the rental’s major systems such as electrical and plumbing, as well as a more premium plan that extends to cover appliances. You’ll also want to consider the age of the property when making your decision. While newer properties that are less than ten years old, most of the appliances will already be covered by manufacturers’ warranties, so there may not be a need for an extensive warranty. Additionally, “Many states require the builder to repair defects in materials and workmanship for a few years – typically two to 10 years,” writes Don Vandervort, founder of Home Tips. For older properties, though, it may make more sense to purchase more extensive coverage.

If you’re on the fence about a home warranty, be sure to consider the pros and cons of coverage to see if it’s something that you could benefit from. Remember, plans vary considerably, so if you’re not happy with a quote that you received from one company, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. It doesn’t hurt to ask for a discount as well –some companies may be willing to negotiate.

Having an emergency fund to cover unexpended costs could stand in for a warranty. But you’ll want to honestly assess whether you’re disciplined enough to set aside a certain amount of money each month for emergency repairs. For landlords who would like to have as much coverage as possible, or who may not be able to commit to putting $100 in a repairs account each month, having a home warranty may be an ideal solution. Some landlords find that warranties are especially helpful in the beginning, until they’ve had time to build up some reserves. Other long-distance landlords use warranties to reduce some of the stress and hassle of having to coordinate repairs from afar.

No matter which way you’re leaning, at the end of the day you’ll want to ensure that you make a decision that will benefit both you and your property, so have a look to see what’s out there before making your final decision.

Popular Searches

Not sure where to search for a home?  Whether you are moving here because of a change in job or to take advantage of our beautiful scenery, our experience has taught us that there are some popular searches that people generally ask us about.  If these searches don’t work for you, feel free to contact us and we can customize a search especially for your needs.

Ft. Carson Homes for Sale

Many people come to the Colorado Springs area because of an association with Ft. Carson.  We have a search that focuses on homes for sale under $400,000 near the Ft. Carson area and a search for homes for sale over $400,000 near Ft. Carson.

Broadmoor Homes

Love the Broadmoor?  So do we.  This search will return homes in the homes in the Broadmoor Area.

District 20 Schools

District 20 is one of the top school districts in our area.  We have many people search for homes that are within the District 20 (D-20) boundaries.  You can search for homes near Northgate or search for homes near Briargate.

Trees & Large Lots in Black Forest

Love trees and acreage?  Then the Black Forest area might be for you.  Black Forest offers larger lots and plenty of trees and privacy.

Popular Powers Corridor

The Powers Corridor is the ultimate in convenience.  Shopping galore, quick access to the airport and family oriented neighborhoods make this an area that many people consider.

Close to Denver

Many times, people want the small town feel but with the proximity to a large city.  The TriLakes area offers this in a big way.  On the northernmost border of El Paso County, the TriLakes area offers people the shortest commute to Denver.

Land to Build

Can’t find the exact home you are looking for?  Then maybe building a home makes sense for you.  This search will show you several areas where land is available to build your dream home.

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There is nothing average about Springs Homes. Everything we do crackles with intention and intensity, because we believe that strategy always wins when employed by confident, knowledgeable and trustworthy agents.

We list and sell homes across the entire Pikes Peak region. Additionally, Springs Homes offers property management services. We work with a select few home builders in order to provide our clients with new construction options as well as resale opportunities.

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