Monthly Archives: January 2014

1031 Exchanges Can Save You Taxes

1031 Exchanges Can Save You Taxes

What is a 1031 exchange?

Under section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, a real property owner can sell his property and then reinvest the proceeds in ownership of like-kind property and defer the capital gains taxes. To qualify as a like-kind exchange, property exchanges must be done in accordance with the rules set forth in the tax code and in the treasury regulations. The 1031 exchange can offer significant tax advantages to real estate buyers. Often overlooked, a 1031 exchange is considered one of the best-kept secrets in the Internal Revenue Code.

Who should consider a 1031 exchange?

If you have real property that will net you a gain upon sale (generally property that has been substantially depreciated for tax purposes and/or has appreciated in fair market value), then you are exactly the person who should consider a 1031 exchange.

There are 5 tax classes of property:

1) Property used in taxpayers trade or business.

2) Property held primarily for sale to customers.

3) Property which is used as your principal residence.

4) Property held for investment.

5) Property used as a vacation home.

Section 1031 applies to the first and fourth categories, and potentially the fifth category. Business use is defined as, “To hold property for productive use in trade or business.” Property retired from previous productive use in business can be qualifying property. Investment purpose defined as real estate, even if unproductive, held by a non-dealer for future use or increment in value is held for investment and not primarily for sale. Investment is the passive holding of property, for more than a temporary period, with the expectation that it will appreciate. Property held for sale in the immediate future is not held for investment.

What are the 1031 exchange rules?

The real property you sell and the real property you buy must both be held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment purposes and must be like-kind.

The proceeds from the sale must go through the hands of a qualified intermediary and not through your hands or the hands of one of your agents or else all the proceeds will become taxable.

All the cash proceeds from the original sale must be reinvested in the replacement property – any cash proceeds that you retain will be taxable.

The replacement property must be subject to an equal level or greater level of debt than the relinquished property or the buyer will either have to pay taxes on the amount of the decrease or have to put in additional cash funds to offset the lower level of debt in the replacement property.

Is There a 1031 Timeline I Have to Follow?

Yes, there are two “Periods” you have to follow exactly.

The Identification Period … Within 45 days of selling the relinquished property you must identify suitable replacement properties. This 45 day rule is very strict and is not extended should the 45th day fall on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.

The Exchange Period … The replacement property must be received by the taxpayer within the “exchange period,” which ends within the earlier of . . . 180 days after the date on which the taxpayer transfers the property relinquished, or . . . the due date for the taxpayer tax return for the taxable year in which the transfer of the relinquished property occurs. This 180-day rule is very strict and is not extended if the 180th day should happen to fall on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday.

11 Must-Haves When Selling Your Home

11 Must-Haves When Selling Your Home

Below are my 11 must-haves when selling your house faster/for more money in the current market.

1. Make your house easy to show. Accompanied showings or 24 hours notice are will discourage most of your potential buyers who will view other houses they can see easily when it is convenient for them.

2. Price it right. This may sound counter intuitive, but a house priced fairly will sell for more money than an overpriced home. You may think, “We’ll aim high and negotiate down if we need to,” but this does not happen. In reality buyers don’t even bid on an overpriced house. After changing the price a time or two to what it should have been, your house is “stale” and your largest pool of buyers have already looked at it and ruled it out. More times than not, when you finally do sell, it will be for below what your original “fair price” would have been.

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Do You Really Need a Home Inspection? … Absolutely!!

Do You Really Need a Home Inspection? … Absolutely!!

It may seem simple, but there are a lot of buyers/sellers who don’t know what rights they have as consumers regarding the types of home inspections they can conduct. Below are explanations of the various types of home inspections and their implications to you.

What is involved in a Home Inspection, and why is it done?

Once you have found a house you like and have agreed on a price with the seller, you have the right to have the house inspected by a licensed home inspector.

Your offer to purchase will specify the time period in which you can have the inspection done, called the “home inspection contingency clause”. In all cases, you pay the inspector and the inspection report is your property, not the sellers’.

The purpose of a home inspection is to identify major problem areas and significant defects or safety issues in the house that are not obvious to you during your showings with your realtor, such as with the roof or heating system.

It should not be used as a “laundry list” for the seller to address every item that comes up – every house that is not new and has been lived in will have minor items of note.

If there are areas of concern to you, you have to notify the seller in writing prior to the expiration of your “home inspection contingency clause” in the offer. Once this is done, your agent will help you negotiate with the seller to address them. Most sellers are willing to work with you on this.

The results of this negotiation may be: a change in the house price; the seller having repairs made prior to closing; or a credit to you at closing for you to have the repairs made with your own vendors. In extreme cases, you may decide to cancel your offer and withdraw from the contract to purchase the home.

How do I find a good home inspector?

The Massachusetts Board of Registration maintains a website of Home Inspectors whose qualifications have been evaluated and granted licensure. The board publishes the list of licensed home inspectors on their website.

This link should take you there. If not, copy and paste it into your browser and hit enter.

Click Here for Information About Home Inspectors

You should contact friends and relatives for personal references and check them against the list.

Can you recommend a good home inspector?

If I’m representing you as a seller’s or buyer’s agent you can call me for recommendations.

I have several with whom I have no business affiliation but from personal experience would recommend for their proven commitment to excellence.

Call me at 978-580-1069

Lead Paint Testing & Certification

Especially important if the property was built before 1978

How do I know if a house has lead paint?

Lead paint disclosures are required to be provided to all buyers and sellers of property constructed prior to 1978. The property transfer notification certification form discloses property condition regarding lead poisoning hazards; requires signatures of the seller, agents and prospective buyers before signing a purchase and sale agreement.

Where can I find out about lead paint inspectors?

The lists of Massachusetts lead paint inspectors and private risk assessors are published by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

This link should take you there. If not, copy and paste it into your browser and hit enter.

Click here for Info on the Lead Paint Law

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Massachusetts Licensed Lead Inspectors (PDF)

Mold and Real Estate

Common in the environment but it can harm you

What is mold (fungi)?

Molds, yeasts and other certain related forms constitute the organisms known as fungi. We have all seen fungi growing on rotten fruit, bread and damp leather. They may by green, black or white and may appear to be fuzzy or sooty.

Fungi are plant-like & many consist of two parts – hyphae, which are fungal filaments that form the body – and spores, which are seed-like structures than can be used for reproduction. Some spores contain mycotoxins and have been termed “toxic mold”.

Fungi must subsist on organic matter such as wood or paper products. In order for fungi to thrive, the following conditions are necessary: An ambient temperature range of 40-100 degrees F; a humid rich environment, generally greater than 60% humidity though usually greater than 70%.

Mold is ubiquitous in nature, making up approximately 25% of the earth’s biomass, and thrives in many outdoor environments.

Why is mold in real estate a potential concern?

Mold (microbial agents) may cause four main types of illnesses in humans: allergies; irritation; infectious disease; & toxic effects. Microbial agents may serve as irritants to the respiratory tract causing an increase in mucus flow and other types of symptoms. These agents may cause infections in two manners: pathogenic infection – this can develop in a relatively healthy individual with a normally functioning immune system; and opportunistic infection – this can develop in an individual with a compromised immune system or those with or on chemotherapy, diabetics, asthma or antibiotics, HIV or AIDS, physical or mental conditions affecting the immune system. Some factors responsible for the concerns are the ability of the agent becoming airborne in sufficient concentrations and the ability of the agent to be respired by the susceptible host.

Are there any buildings more vulnerable to mold growth?

Any dwelling with a history of current water infiltration problems as well as those structures with consistently high indoor humidity levels or those with poorly designed components such as inadequately vented attics and crawl spaces, as well as poorly designed or maintained HVAC systems.

How do I know if mold is present within a dwelling?

Mold growth should be suspected when surfaces are discolored i.e. “mildew” or if damp mildew odor is present which can represent mold by-products such as – microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC’s). This is especially true on organic surfaces.

If mold growth is suspected what should be done?

A trained indoor environmentalist or certified industrial hygienist should be consulted to determine the presence of mold, its cause and cure.

Are there any threshold limits in which mold is a concern?

Because all individuals have varying degrees of sensitivity to mold there are currently no threshold limit values.

What is toxic mold?

Toxic mold refers to certain mold species that have spores that contain mycotoxins such as stachybotrys. Mycotoxins are opportunistic pathogens and may be a greater health concern for certain individuals.

If mold growth is confirmed within the indoor environment what should be done?

Depending on the amount and depth of the mold growth, the solutions may range from removing surface mold via HEPA vacuuming and washing. To the extreme of removing and replacing all effected material, it is strongly suggested that only those with specific training and experience conduct any mold remediation work.

How can mold growth be prevented?

Mold requires several conditions to thrive. An organic material (wood or paper), oxygen, appropriate ambient temperature, a high moisture content and/or a high ambient relative humidity of 60% or greater. The most controllable factor of these conditions is the moisture content, which is usually controlled by removing moisture sources (water infiltration) and reducing and maintaining the indoor ambient humidity level to below 60%. Long story short … ventilation, ventilation and ventilation.

Need an expert?

Call me, I can recommend several.

Radon Testing & Certification

Common in the environment but it can harm you

What do I need to know about radon in the air in my basement?

Radon gas in the air is of concern to any homeowner. It tends to collect in basement areas, and if you have a finished basement where you spend a lot of time you should have the air tested.

Should your house test at or above 4.0 picoCuries per Liter there are excellent, relatively inexpensive mitigation systems that can be installed to permanently keep the level below that threshold.

The link below takes you to one of the most comprehensive sites I’ve found and should answer all your questions.

Click Here for Info on Radon in Air

What do I need to know about radon in my well?

Radon gas in the water is of concern only to homeowners with drinking water supplied by on-site (i.e. private) wells.

The threshold varies widely from state to state, and the EPA has proposed (for community water supplies only) a “Maximum Contaminant Level” of 300 picoCuries per Liter, and a more achievable “Alternate Maximum Contaminant level” of 4,000 picoCuries per Liter.

Should your well test at or above 20,000 picoCuries per Liter (the standards are vague, but this is a commonly suggested threshold) there are excellent mitigation systems that can be installed to permanently keep the level below that threshold. The systems are quite expensive and noisy.

The link below takes you to one of the most comprehensive sites I’ve found and should answer all your questions.

Click Here for Info on Radon in Water

Certificate of Compliance, Massachusetts Title 5  Private Sewerage Systems

Protecting our water supplies when properties are sold, modified or change uses

What is Title 5 and what does it mean to me?

On-site disposal systems, including septic tanks and cesspools, provide an effective means of treating household sewage. However, older, poorly designed systems, inadequate maintenance and many other conditions can affect the performance of such systems. Ineffective treatment of sewage can threaten the environment by polluting local wetlands and groundwater supplies; moreover, failing systems can harm public health by exposing residents to harmful microorganisms carried in wastewater.

For these reasons the Commonwealth of Massachusetts health division implemented a comprehensive septic management program known as Title 5.

Whenever a home is sold, or if there is a change in use, (i.e., a single family residence is converted to a multi-family or to a business) or a building is added onto or substantially modified, an inspection is necessary to ensure that the system is adequate for the new use and that that no part of the system will be covered by a change in the building’s footprint.

If the house has public sewers do I need Title 5?

Title 5 is only of concern to buyers and sellers of property serviced by private sewage disposal systems.

Does the Board of Health do Title 5 Inspections for homeowners?

No. All subsurface disposal systems must be inspected by a State-licensed inspector whenever real estate is sold to ensure that the system is functioning properly. Individual homeowners must hire their own inspector.

What happens if my waste disposal system fails inspection?

If the subsurface disposal system fails an inspection, the owner normally has up to two years in which to correct the problem.

However, the Board of Health may require that the owner address the problem within a shorter period should the failing system present a threat to the public health and the environment.

If the property is sold within this time period without correcting the problem, the new owner assumes responsibility for the failed septic system.

If my system fails, am I required to connect to sewers or replace it?

Title 5 requires that owners of septic systems meet the standard of “maximum feasible compliance” with the requirements of the State Code. The level of compliance that may be met–that is, whether the system is simply repaired, replaced, or the home connected to the sewer–will depend on the characteristics of the property involved. If town sewer is not available near the home, the homeowner must apply to the Board of Health for approval of a design for a new system that meets the requirements of Title 5.

How do I know the system has passed?

The inspection reports are submitted to the town Board of Health where they are reviewed, approved & filed and a Certificate of Compliance is issued. You should request a copy of this from the sellers via their agent after your offer has been accepted.

Does the system have to be pumped in order to pass a Title 5 inspection?

The law does not require that the system be pumped for inspection. However, unless the inspection is conducted by the company that regularly services the system and checks it annually during standard pumping, any results that do not include pumping may be suspect. As part of your home inspection rights, you can have your own title 5 inspection at your cost during the inspection period if you are concerned about the seller’s inspection.

Where can I find more information on Title 5?

The best source for information on this topic is the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. They have available on their website certain informational materials explaining Title V regulations.

This link should take you there. If not, copy and paste it into your browser and hit enter.

Click Here for Information about Title 5

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