Category Archives: Finance

Arlington MA Real Estate + Spring Market = Insanity!

Surely you have heard about Arlington’s limited inventory, good (but rising) interest rates, and how sellers are enjoying MP900305899multiple offers over asking price, with buyers waiving contingencies. This has been a crazy spring so far.
The effect is a rise in median sale price, and everyone’s value has gone up, whether they’ve done any improvements on their house or not.

What have houses been selling for?

In the first four months of 2014 there have been 60 sales of single family homes. The average list price was $653K and the average sale price was $665K. Average days on market was 30.
During the same time period in 2013 there were 53 sales, and the average list price was $567K and average sale price $574K. Average days on market was 51. That’s a 15% increase in one year.
One interesting example is 62 Oak Hill, a fully renovated cape w 1740 sqft, listed at $635K, sold for $700K ($65K over!)

Escalation Clauses

This is a new twist buyers are using to beat their competition. Saying “buyer will pay $X over the highest offer” has allowed some buyers to get offers accepted that otherwise wouldn’t. It has also caused extreme confusion when there were several offers using this. The jury is out on this tactic, as it can work well, or backfire.

What is a home worth?

Real estate is a commodity, the value of which fluctuates depending on supply and demand. Other factors like interest rates and public sentiment affect it as well. But ultimately a home is worth what a seller is willing too take, and a buyer is willing to pay. In a market with low inventory (in the case of Arlington the absorption rate is One Month for single family homes) competitive buyers drive the price up, and find new ways to be competitive, including waiving inspections and mortgage contingencies. I do have a concern for buyers getting excited about a home and taking on undue risk in order to get their offer accepted. Sellers are looking for the highest price and the least risk. It’s a shame that buyers are shouldering most or all of the risk in this market.

Seminars for First Time Home Buyers

Buyers who do a lot of reading on the internet and shopping for listings through Zillow and Trulia owe it to themselves to come in and get the hyper-local scoop on how to effectively buy a home in this competitive market, understand the process, the risks, the contracts, the professionals needed, and know what elements are essential to protecting yourself while getting your offer accepted. In this type of environment, more than ever, knowledge is power. Come in and get some soon! Seminars taught monthly, see the schedule here.


3.8% Tax Myths Clarified

Ever since health care reform was enacted into law more than two years ago, rumors have been circulating on the Internet and in e-mails that the law contains a 3.8 percent tax on real estate. NAR quickly released material to show that the tax doesn’t target real estate and will in fact affect very few home sales, because it’s a tax that will only affect high-income households that realize a substantial gain on an asset sale, including on a home sale, once other factors are taken into account. Maybe 2-3 percent of home sellers will be affected.

Nevertheless, the rumors persist and the latest version that’s circulating falsely say NAR is advocating for the tax’s repeal. But while NAR doesn’t support the tax (it was added into the health care law at the last minute and never considered in hearings), it’s not advocating for its repeal at this time.

The characterization of the 3.8 percent tax as a tax on real estate is an example of an Internet rumor, says Heather Elias, NAR’s director of social business media. Elias and Linda Goold, NAR’s director of tax policy, sat down for a discussion of how the tax works and how Internet rumors work and you can find their remarks in the 6-minute video above.

Goold says the tax will affect few home sellers because so many different pieces must fall into place a certain way for the tax to apply. First, any home sale gain (principal residence) must be more than the $250,000-$500,000 capital gains exclusion that’s in effect today. That’s gain, not sales amount, so you really have to reap a substantial amount for the tax to even come into play. Very few people are walking away with a gain of more than half a million dollars today, even in the high-end home market, so right off the bat only a few home sellers would be a candidate for the tax.

For the few households that do see a gain of more than the $250,000-$500,000 exclusion (that’s $250,000 for single filers and $500,000 for joint filers), only the amount above the exclusion would be factored into the tax calculation, and that would still only apply to high-income households, which the law defines as single people earning $200,000 a year and joint filers earning $250,000 a year.

So, if you are a households with annual income of $250,000 or more and you earn a gain of more than $500,000 on your house (again, that’s after the $500,000 exclusion), any amount of gain above the exclusion would be plugged into a formula to see if it’s taxable. If it turns out that it’s taxable, then the amount could be subject to the 3.8 percent tax. If the household had a gain of more than $500,000 but only earned $249,000 a year in income, the tax wouldn’t apply.

(Note that these are just hypothetical examples. To know if a case would really be subject to the tax, a professional tax preparer or tax attorney has to look at all the particulars of the tax filer’s case. Only a tax professional is in a position to say the tax is applicable, but the examples cited here could help you get a sense of how the tax works.)

The other thing about the tax worth noting is that, although it takes effect in 2013, any impact on taxes wouldn’t happen until 2014. That’s because the tax filer would do the calculation in 2014 for the 2013 tax year. Because it’s not a tax on a real estate sale but rather on a capital gain, it’s not calculated at the time of an asset sale, whether that asset is a house or something else. It’s calculated at the time the filer figures his or her tax.

This is all explained clearly in the video, so if you have questions about how the tax works, or if you’re still hearing rumors about the tax and you’re not certain of the accuracy of what you’re hearing, the video should prove helpful.