Archive for Home Buyer Tax Info

New York City Real Estate is different – and navigating the waters can be difficult without a network of friends or financial resources to help you.  There are many websites you can visit, but here’s a few to help you get started:

StreetEasy has searchable listings and user forums geared towards sales rather than rentals. For $15/month you can get sold prices of coops, condos and townhouses. A must have if you are trying to determine what the “correct” selling price should be.

Trulia  has searchable listings and interesting neighborhood stats.

The New York Times website  has articles and searchable listings.

PropertyShark.com  provides you with comprehensive and detailed data including zoning, permits (Department of Building information), property tax information etc.

Curbed NY  is a cross between commentary and gossip, it is a good place to get a feel for New York real estate and learn about new developments and conversions. Tongue-in-cheek

The BrickUnderground gives practical advice, with current prices and advice on rental apartment living.

Hotpads A search tool with thousands of apartment listings plotted on a map.

NabeWise ranks neighborhoods based on various characteristics.

If you have certain neighborhoods in mind, for rentals,  sites like Naked Apartments and RentHop  provide search tools to narrow preferences

Navigating the waters of Manhattan real estate is not for the faint of heart.  It takes stamina and persistence to find just what you want at a price you can afford.  Educating yourself is a great first step.

 Adapted from a New York Times article by Joseph Plambeck

Recently with the devaluation of the dollar and the uncertainty of investments elsewhere around the world, many more foreign nationals have been interested in purchasing Manhattan residential real estate as an investment.

It is no more difficult for a foreign national to obtain a mortgage than for an American citizens buying in New York City if the residence is to be a primary residence (or at least a pied-à-terre). However,  an investor who is not prepared to pay in cash and wants to obtain a mortgage for a property that will be used as an investment (i.e. with rental income), will find it difficult or impossible to find a mortgage with low rates.

The foreign national buyer, in addition to putting together a search team including a real estate broker and a mortgage lender (if necessary), should search out a New York City attorney who may be able to help save thousands of dollars in taxes or at least alert you to the tax consequences of the purchase.

For just such an investor, I recently had the pleasure of working with Michael C. Xylas of Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP. One of the partners, Neil Garfinkel, recently published an extremely informative discussion, very helpful to foreign buyers, summarized below and found in its entirety here.

Foreign investors are lured to US real estate by the stability and security of the US Real Estate market.  Generally they can enjoy a steady appreciation of US real property and without the volatility of financial markets, making the prospect of economic gain through rental income and capital growth the strongest attraction.  With relative political and economic stability in the US, there are fewer barriers to foreign purchase of US real property.  The weaker dollar and lower property prices make these investments even more attractive for foreign investors.

While easy to purchase as a foreigner, real property comes with reporting and tax consequences that must be considered.

“For the purpose of US Income Tax, a Foreigner or non resident alien (NRA) is an individual who is neither a US Citizen, a green card holder nor US Tax resident.  The test to determine if an NRA qualifies for the same status as a US citizen or resident individual is based on ‘substantial presence’.  This is defined by the number of days that one must reside in the US to achieve such status.   For the purpose of US Estate and Gift Tax, the test is more subjective, based on one’s intent of permanency in a particular country.  Importantly NRA’s are nevertheless subject to estate and gift taxes on any asset that are actually situated in the US.”

It is extremely important for foreign investors to work with a qualified team of legal, accounting and brokerage/valuation advisors who understand the rules in the foreigner’s home country as they correlate with the laws of the United States; if handled correctly, the transaction will be most suitably structured with consideration for investment, accounting and tax purposes.

Consider the Structure used to purchase the asset while planning your purchase:

  • Individual owner (Direct Ownership) and Single Member LLC
    • Real property used as a residence for personal use
    • Least complex
    • Required to file US Income Tax return
    • Estate Tax issues, Federal and possibly State
  • Shareholder in a domestic or foreign corporation
    • Domestic Corporation
      • Provides a liability shield
      • The Corporation is the taxpayer, eliminating the need for individual annual tax returns
      • Does not avoid US Federal estate tax liability
      • Two levels of tax imposed on corporation income:
        • Corporate level tax imposed
        • 30% withholding tax on dividends paid to individual owner/imposed (this could be lower based on a favorable tax treaty between the foreign investor’s country of residence and the US)
    • Foreign Corporation
      • Limits tax liability, mostly used to avoid US income tax as well as US estate tax.
      • Pass on US real property to estate beneficiaries without paying US  taxes
      • No individual US Tax return, however
        • 30% branch profits tax against the foreign corporation ‘dividend equivalent amount’ (regardless of any current distributions to the shareholders, the tax is imposed on corporation’s taxable income that is effectively connected to a US trade or business.
    • Foreign corporation which owns a US corporation
      • More complex structure, both foreign corporation and domestic US corporation are formed
      • Foreign Corporation owns the Domestic US corporation which owns the real estate asset.
      • more costly and complicated
        • Investor is provided a limited liability shield and does not file any US tax return
        • Federal estate and gift tax are not applicable
        • Branch Profits tax not applicable
        • Ultimate investor would be transparent
        • Income tax would be taxed at a less favorable rate compared to individual ownership

The IRS earlier this month released the new form that eligible homebuyers need to claim the first-time homebuyer credit this tax season and announced processing of those tax returns will begin in mid-February. The IRS also announced new documentation requirements to deter fraud related to the first-time homebuyer credit.

The new form and instructions follow major changes in November to the homebuyer credit by the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. The new law extended the credit to a broader range of home purchasers and added new documentation requirements to deter fraud and ensure taxpayers properly claim the credit.

With the release of Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit, and the related instructions, eligible homebuyers can now start to file their 2009 tax returns. Taxpayers claiming the homebuyer credit must file a paper tax return because of the added documentation requirements.

The IRS expects to start processing 2009 tax returns claiming the homebuyer credit in mid-February after it completes the updating and testing of systems to meet the law’s new requirements. The updates allow the IRS to put in place critical systemic checks to deter fraud related to the homebuyer credit.

Some of these early taxpayers claiming the homebuyer credit may see tax refunds take an additional two to three weeks.

In addition to filling out a Form 5405, all eligible homebuyers must include with their 2009 tax returns one of the following documents in order to receive the credit:

  • A copy of the settlement statement showing all parties’ names and signatures, property address, sales price, and date of purchase. Normally, this is the properly executed Form HUD-1, Settlement Statement.
  • For a newly constructed home where a settlement statement is not available, a copy of the certificate of occupancy showing the owner’s name, property address and date of the certificate.

In addition, the new law allows a long-time resident of the same main home to claim the homebuyer credit if they purchase a new principal residence. To qualify, eligible taxpayers must show that they lived in their old homes for a five-consecutive-year period during the eight-year period ending on the purchase date of the new home. The IRS has stepped up compliance checks involving the homebuyer credit, and it encouraged homebuyers claiming this part of the credit to avoid refund delays by attaching documentation covering the five-consecutive-year period:

  • Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement, or substitute mortgage interest statements,
  • Property tax records or
  • Homeowner’s insurance records.

The IRS also reminded homebuyers that the new documentation requirements mean that taxpayers claiming the credit cannot file electronically and must file paper returns. Taxpayers can still use IRS Free File to prepare their returns, but the returns must be printed out and sent to the IRS, along with all required documentation.

Normally, it takes about four to eight weeks to get a refund claimed on a complete and accurate paper return where all required documents are attached. For those homebuyers filing early, the IRS expects the first refunds based on the homebuyer credit will be issued toward the end of March.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to use direct deposit to speed their refund. In addition, taxpayers can use Where’s My Refund? on IRS.gov to track the status of their refund.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkzB03uuGlg

More details on claiming the credit can be found in the instructions to Form 5405, as well as on the First-Time Homebuyer Credit page on IRS.gov.

Fed housing credit?

Fed housing credit?

Local media has been commenting since last August that New Yorkers seem to be blasé about the Recovery Package offer of $8,000 toward a new home. However, it was so popular nationally that Congress has extended that, and added a $6,500 offer for current owners who move.

Well, I wouldn’t pass it up if I were in the home market right now, and put my team to work finding out what you might buy with that free cash. Some new furniture and décor are obvious choices, and almost everyone needs something for their new home.

Or you could use it for other kinds of fun. Given my favorite pastimes, I might figure out how many lovely restaurant meals I could savor, including cuisine hot spots my wife and I usually reserve for special occasions.

But you have many other options. For about $600 to $1,600 you could score a pair of trendy Christian Louboutin shoes or boots at Saks, which offers 96 choices at your fingertips. Or there’s the current Prada event with hot items coming up, now available for pre-orders. While at Sak’s you could also pick up a steal on men’s watches, such as Breil Milano’s stainless steel chronograph strap watch at $1,250.

Or how about a Hermes bag? For classic Hermes, you can’t go wrong with the Birkin bag, starting at $6,000. Here’s a entire blog dedicated to the Birkin.

Here’s a tidbit from a local fashion blog: “Katie Holmes & Suri: Spotted on Madison Avenue of New York, little Suri had her own pint-sized version of Mom’s orange Hermes shopping bag. Later on, Katie was seen with a rare burgundy Garden Party Handbag that looked more like a boarding bag. The Hermes handbag offset her black pencil skirt and red heels. With all the goodies that could be stuffed into that spacious bag, Holmes was ready for anything.” The Evelyne, starting a bit under $2,500, is très chic now.

You can toast your new home with a rare champagne.  Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1993 is just $399.00 per 750 ml. bottle, limited to one per customer at Astor Wines.  Salon Blanc de Blanc, Le Mesnil – 1997 is more expensive at $459.99, but in greater supply.  You can buy a case of 6 for $2621.94.

Does your new co-op or condo allow pooches?  How about using your savings for today’s most expensive, pure bred, a Samoyed, starting at $3,000 or an English Bulldog at around $2,500.  On the other hand, if you adopt a nice homeless puppy from a shelter approved by the Humane Society, you’ll have lots of money to buy dog food and a really fancy collar, $18 and up from wwww.muttropolis.com.

And let’s not forget the sports fans.  How about season tickets to the Yankees next year?  Despite the World Series victory, top prices will actually decline, with field level seats at $250 per game for season ticket holders, down from $325 this year.

How much more stimulated could you get?  Check out my November 2 post  for housing stimulus dates and details. Go, Feds!

In addition to last week’s passage of a bill to extend through 2010 Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and FHA loan limits  to $729,750, the extension and expansion of the home buyer tax credit is the pending business in the Has passed the Senate.

After a long week of negotiation on the credit, an agreement on the scope of both expansion and extension has been reached. The agreement on the extension and expansion of the credit is as follows:

  • Credit available for purchases before May 1, 2010. Prospective purchasers with binding contracts in place as of April 30, 2010 will be allowed an additional 60 days to complete the transaction.
  • Credit remains at $8000 for first-time purchasers. No change to definition of first-time purchaser.
  • New $6500 tax credit for repeat buyers who purchase between December 1, 2009 and May 1, 2010. Repeat buyers must have lived in their homes consecutively for 5 of the previous 8 years.
  • Income limits are expanded to $125,000 on a single return and $225,000 on a joint return. Current law $20,000 phase-out retained.
  • New anti-fraud limitations are imposed.

The White House has indicated that President Obama will sign the has signed the legislation into law.

Here are the details directly fro the IRS.

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First Time Buyer $8000 Federal Housing Tax CreditIf you’re a first time homebuyer in New York City and you can close on an apartment by December 1st 2009,  you may be wondering how you can leverage the $8,000 tax credit to buy your first condo or co-op. The question then comes to mind, “How much can I afford or want to spend on my new home?”

The first thing you need to know is that a couple (or two individuals jointly) buying their first home who want to use the Federal Housing Tax Credit can only have an annual combined income of $150,000 or $12,500 per month.

When you apply for a mortgage, the first thing the mortgage broker or lender is will calculate is your debt-to-income ratio. This ratio takes into account your monthly debt including the monthly mortgage payment, maintenance (for co-ops) or common charges and taxes (for condos), student loans, car payments credit card payments etc. They like to see that your total monthly debt expenses do not exceed 40% of your monthly income. If your gross monthly income is $12,500, then your total monthly debt cannot exceed $5,000 (12,500 x 40%).

The calculation above may be adequate to receive financing for a condo purchase, but many coops only will allow your maximum monthly housing expenses (principal and interest payment on the mortgage and maintenance), to be typically 28%  of your monthly income (could be 25% or lower for some co-ops, which is the limit set by the co-op board, not the lender).

Using a limit of 28% for housing expenses, a buyer with an income of $12,500 per month would have approximately $3,500 per month to spend on housing expenses.

So depending on the amount you have for a down payment (assume at least 20%), the mortgage rate and other debt, you may be able to spend between $3500 and $5000 per month to for your Manhattan co-op or condo.

You can use this link to StreetEasy.com to adjust the variables and see what’s available for you based on your personal circumstances.

See a video here and read the FAQ here

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The combination of a tumbling stock market, where 401k holders watched the value crumble, and the decline of home prices has made it an attractive time to take the leap into buying a first home. Rather than watch their stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other investments continue to lose value, many first time buyers have cashed out all or some of their 401k and used it toward the down payment or for covering other costs.

Like any major financial decision, using a 401k to buy your first home has some good, some bad and some ugly things you need to be aware of.

The Good
• Great deals on purchases. The good news is that real estate prices have fallen to the point where you can find better deals and there’s a wider selection than in the recent past. It may even mean that you can buy a co-op or condo that you were never able to afford before the decrease in value.
• Upside appreciation. This also means that when real estate values return to normal that you’ll probably profit when you sell (assuming you sell for more than you paid and what you owe on the mortgage).

The Bad
• Loss of income. When you decrease the value of your 401k account, the lower principal balance means you have less money from which to earn interest, dividends and appreciation.
• Depletion of nest egg. Since the purpose of a 401k is to provide income for your retirement years, when you spend this money now, it’s not going to be available for tomorrow.

The Ugly
• Tax penalties. The ugliest part of early withdrawal from a 401k is that good old Uncle Sam hits you with tax penalties can really hurt—and it diminishes the amount you wind up with when you make a withdrawal.
• Fees. The investment firm that manages your 401k may also charge you a penalty or fee for liquidating the investments early, which may leave you with even less money than you anticipated.

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Mortgage rates include co-ops

New York State has just announced a new Federal tax credit for first-time home buyers.  The program will take effect in September.

  • Mortgage Credit Certificates (“MCC”) issued by SONYMA enables first-time homebuyers to convert 20% of their annual mortgage interest into a direct income tax credit on their Federal Tax Return for each year of the life of their loan;
  • MCCs can be used with any fixed-rate mortgage product offered by your lender;
  • Borrowers with MCCs can also take advantage of the $8,000 Federal first-time homebuyer credit (if closed by November 30, 2009)

There are limitaitions  on income ( $92,160 for 1 & 2 person households, $102, 520 for 3+person hosueholds) as well as purchase price limits ( $637,640for co-ops and condos ). Here are the details.

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