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Short sales: taxes, 1099s, and relocation assistance

Because short sales aren’t your average real estate transactions, there are common misunderstandings regarding how a homeowner’s taxes are impacted. Let’s dissect these notions right now.

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It’s Tax Season

I always know when tax season is just around the corner because I see Lady Liberty or Uncle Sam spinning signs that invite me into a local tax preparer’s office. Now is also a time when lots of questions arise about short sales and income taxes. If you or any of your clients participated in a short sale in 2012, then there are a number of things you will want to know about short sales and tax return preparation.

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007

I received a 1099-MISC from the short sale lender. Is the income noted on the 1099-MISC taxable?

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 provides tax forgiveness for certain short sale sellers, and such forgiveness depends on the taxpayer’s specific situation. Taxpayers who sold their home in a short sale during 2012 should seek the advice of an accountant in order to learn whether this Relief Act applies to their unique tax position.

What if the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act doesn’t apply to my short sale?

Because the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 does not apply to everyone (e.g. if the home sold is not a qualified principal residence or due to bankruptcy), it is vital that taxpayers seek the advice of an accountant in order to learn about any other tax laws that may come into play in order to provide tax relief.

Is Relocation Assistance Money Taxable?

I received an incentive from the short sale lender? Do I have to pay taxes on the incentive?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, “Cash for Keys Program income, which is taxable, is income from a financial institution, offered to taxpayers to expedite the foreclosure process. Report this as ‘other income’ on Form 1040, line 21. The taxpayer should receive Form 1099-MISC with the income in box 3.”

I received an incentive from the short sale lender, but I did not receive a 1099-MISC. How should I proceed?

I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that short sale sellers often don’t receive the 1099-MISC because the short sale lender doesn’t have a record of the taxpayer’s new address. Speak with an accountant about how to proceed in this situation.

Common Problems with Relocation Assistance

My real estate agent told me that I was supposed to get relocation assistance money. We closed, and I received a 1099-MISC. However, I never got any relocation assistance money. What should I do?

All relocation assistance money is documented on the final settlement statement (also called a HUD-1) and payable to short sale sellers through the settlement agent at closing. If there is no line item for relocation assistance on the settlement statement and no notation on the short sale approval letter from the lender, then the bank did not approve the short sale assistance.

If there is a line item for relocation assistance and the seller did not receive the funds, contact the settlement agent for more information. In many cases, with prior written authorization of the short sale seller and the short sale lender, relocation assistance money is used in order to pay off non-institutional liens and clear the title for closing.

On the settlement statement, it shows that the buyer is paying the relocation assistance and not the short sale lender. Why would I receive a 1099-MISC from the short sale lender if the buyer paid the money?

Since any real estate sale requires that buyer funds be used to pay seller costs, the relocation assistance shows as a debit to the buyer and a credit to the seller. Of course, this is a credit to the seller from the short sale lender who retains all of the remaining funds at closing.

Short Sale Documentation

No matter when the short sale closes, all short sale sellers should retain copies of the short sale approval letters from the lenders and a final settlement statement from the closing agent. In this way, any questions that come up (no matter how far in the future) can be addressed quickly and efficiently.

Melissa Zavala is the Broker/Owner of Broadpoint Properties and Head Honcho of Short Sale Expeditor®, and Chief Executive Officer of Transaction 911. Before landing in real estate, she had careers in education and publishing. Most recently, she has been able to use her teaching and organizational skills while traveling the world over—dispelling myths about the distressed property market, engaging and motivating real estate agents, and sharing her passion for real estate. When she isn’t speaking or writing, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, walking the dog, and vacationing at beach resorts.

Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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