January 11th, 2019

Saving for retirement takes careful planning

Posted by at 12:12 pm

Remember the story of the grasshopper and the ant? In times of plenty, the grasshopper played and played, while the ant stashed and stored for the hard winter ahead. When it comes to retirement, you should be thinking like an ant, not a grasshopper. In 2018, long-stagnant wages are finally on the rise, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earnings are up more than 83 cents an hour year-over-year, the largest such increase since 2009. The human – and grasshopper –  response to extra money in a paycheck is an accompanying increase in personal spending. Instead, experts recommend small sacrifices today to set up a better tomorrow. While everyone has at least some degree of control over income, they have a great deal of control over spending. Top areas of compromise are: Driving older vehicles Taking fewer and less...
Read more

A New Year’s path to homeownership

Posted by at 12:44 pm

The New Year always begins with New Year’s resolutions – with a list nearly always topped by getting fit (i.e. giving up fatty food, alcohol or smoking), getting organized or taking better care of finances. Our Bay Equity Loan Officers are experts in helping customers make a similar list of resolutions. Let us help you make it a happy New Homeowner’s Year, too. Ready to get started? Credit Check:  Good credit is key to getting a mortgage but it takes discipline and planning. First, find out what your score is. Pay bills on time, and work to improve your credit establish it independently by opening up checking/savings accounts and using credit cards carefully. How much? Figure out how much you can spend with a handy mortgage calculator. Don’t forget to consider closing costs, ongoing maintenance and insurance, too. Experts recommend...
Read more
December 15th, 2018

HUD announces new FHA loan limits for 2019

Posted by at 2:10 pm

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is raising loan limits for most of the country in 2019. The FHA’s loan limit ceiling is increasing in more than 3,000 counties, with the loan limit in high-cost areas increasing to $726,525 from $679,650. FHA will also increase its floor to $314,827 from $294,515. Single-family forward loans are limited to 115% of median house prices, subject to a floor and a ceiling. FHA also set its maximum loan limit ‘ceiling’ for high-cost areas at 150% ($726,525) of the national conforming limit. Click here to see county-by-county limits and read the FHA letter to mortgagees...
Read more

Housing taking a peak?

Posted by at 11:02 am

After rapid acceleration for most of the past two years, home prices in many parts of the country are slowing as interest rates rise and inventory in some markets increases. Evidence that the market is cooling can be seen in price drops. In October, 31.3 percent of homes for sale had at least one price drop of more than 1 percent after listing, 6.3 percent higher than last October’s level of 25 percent. Ten years after the financial crisis, the notion of a housing “peak” – which would naturally be followed by a downturn – seems downright spooky. Is it time to start talking about a “housing bubble?” Most economists say no. Historically, price crashes are usually caused by over-supply. In contrast, the present moment is probably a simple “cycle top” – the kind of correction normal in any consumer...
Read more
October 17th, 2018

Itemize cut down to size

Posted by at 9:36 am

It’s hard to believe, but it’s almost 2019. Time to start thinking about your 2018 tax return in the first year of the Trump-Republican tax reform. Whether the changes help or hurt you, there’s one thing that seems nearly certain – a lot fewer filers are going to be itemizing. The standard deduction has nearly doubled, from $6,350 to $12,000 for single filers and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married filers filing jointly. Theoretically, far more taxpayers will be discouraged from itemizing, leaving a lot fewer deductions for IRS workers to verify. Even with the lower standard deduction, only about 30 percent took the time to itemize last year. With the big increases, it could go down to single digits. But the increased standard deductions aren’t the only reason taxpayers might skip itemization. Many deductions have been reduced or eliminated...
Read more
July 24th, 2018

Tree party etiquette

Posted by at 6:39 pm

As a homeowner, you may have occasion to share a tree with your neighbor. Most of the time, a neighboring tree provides shade, home for songbirds and general aesthetic appeal, but not always. Conflicts can arise if you feel a neighbor’s tree has become a nuisance or a danger to your property, but it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities before taking any drastic measures. Tree law varies from state to state, but there are general standards defining what you can and can’t do. All states allow you to trim branches and limbs overhanging your property, but you can’t trim them beyond the line. If you harm the structural integrity or appearance of the tree in the process of trimming it, you could be found liable for up to three times its value. Therefore, it’s always advisable to do...
Read more

Time to plan your escape

Posted by at 2:39 pm

Want to combine the unpleasant experience of being locked in a room with the tedium of solving complex puzzle problems? While this may not sound like a lot of fun at first, the “escape room” experience has become something of a cultural phenomenon. But you don’t have to pay big dollars for a high-tech experience at one of the many businesses hosting the games. Whether dinner parties, family game night or birthday bashes, you can design and build your own escape room at home. It can be a bit intimidating. Isn’t it going to be a lot of work and cost? After all, don’t businesses make huge outlays for authentic costumes and high-tech gadgetry? Take a deep breath. The true magic of the escape room experience lies in creating puzzles that are difficult without being frustrating, and hiding essential clues...
Read more

Accessorize your dwelling with an ADU unit

Posted by at 2:56 pm

As home prices continue to  rise, many folks are left wondering how they can afford a piece of the American dream. Some have broached the idea of sharing, but co-ownership – even among family – is a little too cozy for most. The tenancy approach is probably the easiest. That’s why many buyers today are looking for homes with potential to add “accessory dwelling units,” or ADUs. ADU residences can be build-ons, re-purposed space or even a separate, free-standing unit. The main draw is practicality. ADUs provide a sense of autonomy for the renter at a lower cost, and can provide the homeowners with help paying their mortgage. The majority (62 percent) of U.S. households are made up of one or two people, while most new and existing homes are designed to accommodate three or four. Legacy housing stock is...
Read more

Home water wells for more liquidity

Posted by at 3:10 pm

Well, well, well. Drilling a home water well could give you more liquidity – in your pocketbook. Cost to install a well depends on many factors, including where you live, but in most regions, it runs less than $5,000. After initial installation, any water you pump from the ground is free! Many urban homeowners use wells exclusively for outdoor watering, and in areas with shortages – and consequent bans on non-essential watering – a ready supply of well water can do wonders for lawn-lovers and gardening gastronomes. Water wells can also be used for drinking water, but these should be separated from any septic system by at least 100 feet. The well should be located on a level surface or uphill so that contaminants do not accumulate. If you plan to drink the water, you need to have it periodically...
Read more

Tax Helpers for Last-Minute Filers

Posted by at 11:22 am

With tax time just a week away, there’s about a one-in-five chance you are one of the 40 million American taxpayers who haven’t yet filed. Never fear! Just like last 2017, 2018 contains some calendar quirks that give you a little extra time. Tax Day is April 17 in 2018 instead of April 15. Why? April 15 falls on a Sunday, and the Washington, D.C. holiday Emancipation Day is celebrated Monday, April 16, so the Internal Revenue Service’s main offices get that day off, too. That means everyone gets two extra days. If more time isn’t enough, The IRS has tax help, publications and information at www.irs.gov to help last-minute filers, including instructions on how to request an automatic six-month filing extension. Here’s another helper: You may not be aware, but the IRS website also provides free copies of your past returns. That’s great...
Read more