Political Power Shift Could Generate Changes in the U.S. Luxury Housing Market

There’s a new political party in charge in Washington, D.C., one that hopes to make some big changes in the U.S. economy, including tax reform. While the initial priorities of the Biden administration and Congress focus on mitigating the devastating impact of the pandemic, the new political dynamic could eventually create a shift in the luxury housing market.

“The luxury market has done very well in recent years thanks to low mortgage rates and to the performance of the stock market, which is influenced by politics,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com in Washington, D.C.

Political actions have both a direct and an indirect impact on the housing market.

“We’ve never been at a time when the political landscape has continued to seem so uncertain,” said Frederick Peters, CEO of Warburg Realty in New York City. “Politics has an effect on the stock market, which in turn has an effect on the luxury real estate market.”

While most of the Biden administration’s initial housing policies focus on the affordable housing crisis, Marco Rufo, a partner with The Agency real estate brokerage in Los Angeles, said that the possible extension of the federal eviction moratorium beyond the current date of March 31 could have implications for the higher end of the housing market in the future.

“Most of our buyers are extremely wealthy and many of them own lots of property that they rent to tenants,” Mr. Rufo said. “If policies are put in place that reduce their ability to collect rent on multiple properties, that could have a negative impact on their net worth and willingness to upgrade into more expensive properties.”

Another political issue that’s already had a major effect on luxury housing markets is tax reform.

Tax Reform and the Luxury Residential Market

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that went into effect in 2018 has several provisions, such as lower tax rates, a higher lifetime estate and gift tax limit, and a higher standard deduction that are set to expire at the end of 2025. Democrats are anticipated to address those expiring provisions and other tax issues eventually.

“Most of the tax reform ideas impact people with incomes above $400,000 and capital gains of more than $1 million, the demographic that matches our homebuyers,” Mr. Rufo said. “If everything was enacted, it probably wouldn’t mean that people won’t buy homes, but it could mean that they pause a little to consider their options.”

Some potential tax reforms include:

· Lifting SALT deduction limitations. The 2018 limitation on the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT) to $10,000 was significant in markets like New York and California, said Mr. Peters, who anticipates a positive impact on those tax-heavy locales if that limit is lifted by Democratic tax reform efforts.

“It’s not just a matter of money and getting a larger tax deduction, it’s also the perception,” he said. “It would make people feel less anxious about buying in states with higher taxes.”

In the Washington, D.C. area, where the luxury market mostly centers on homes priced between $1.5 million and $2.5 million, the SALT deductibility cap slowed the pace of sales, reduced luxury listings and reduced home buyers’ budgets, said Jeff Detwiler, president and CEO of Long & Foster Real Estate in D.C.

“We saw $2 million homes sit on the market for a year or longer,” he said. “Now we have only a two-month supply of luxury homes because of migration trends and a frothy market in 2020. If the SALT cap is lifted, we’d see even more demand because those deductions directly impact the finances of our buyers.”

Migration trends after the SALT cap meant that more people left high-tax states to move to lower tax states like Florida and Texas.

“If your SALT deductions aren’t limited, then you can be agnostic over where you live,” said Melissa Cohn, executive mortgage banker with William Raveis Mortgage in New York City.

· Higher income tax rates. Increasing income taxes always has a negative impact on the luxury market, Ms. Cohn said. However, she doesn’t expect tax rates to rise in the near future.

“The pandemic changed everything, and the focus now is on rebuilding the economy. So even if the Democrats want to raise taxes eventually, now is not the time,” she said.

An increase in tax rates for high earners probably won’t take buyers out of the market, said Mr. Detwiler, but it could reduce their price point by several hundred thousands dollars or more.

“The good news about tax reform that would cause wealthier people to pay more is that it would be a federal issue that people can’t escape by moving to Florida,” Mr. Peters said.

· Higher capital gains tax rate. While home sellers can exclude up to $250,000 in profit if they’re single and up to $500,000 if they’re married from a capital gains tax on their primary residence, an increase in the long-term capital gains tax rate could still hurt the luxury housing market. Currently, the highest capital gains tax rate is 20%.

“If the capital gains tax rate is increased, that could have negative repercussions,” Ms. Cohn said. “People wouldn’t want to sell their homes, especially if they hoped the rates would roll back again in the future, and that would limit the supply of homes.”

Mr. Detwiler said he thinks a higher capital gains rate could have a bigger impact on the second-home market. Currently, the long-term capital gains tax rate depends on your income and is either 0%, 15% or 20%. Single taxpayers who earn $441,450 or more and married taxpayers who earn $496,600 pay the top rate.

“Sellers have to pay capital gains taxes on the profit of the sale of a home that’s not their primary residence,” Mr. Detwiler said “In addition, if people have to pay more taxes on other gains, that shrinks their portfolio and changes how much they’ll want to pay for a house.”

· Elimination of 1031 Exchange option. A 1031 Exchange allows investors to swap one property for another and postpone paying capital gains tax on the sale until you sell the next property.

Without the 1031 Exchange, investors would have less money to put into their next deal, Ms. Cohn said.

“Getting rid of the 1031 Exchange would have a direct impact in our area because we have a lot of luxury rentals at $40,000 to $50,000 a month in Los Angeles,” Mr. Rufo said. “Owners of these properties would pull back from buying and selling them if they had to pay capital gains on the transaction, and that would have a direct impact on property values.”

Broader Impact of Politics on the Housing Market

Real estate market performance is tied to the fundamentals of supply and demand, which can also be influenced by political policies, realtor.com’s Ms. Hale said. (Mansion Global is owned by Dow Jones. Both Dow Jones and realtor.com are owned by News Corp.)

“Demand is based on income and consumer confidence,” Ms. Hale said. “If wealthy households see their income go down due to a higher tax burden, it’s conceivable that their spending could decline and that would impact the housing market.”

However, a growing economy, especially one that drives stock gains, could mean after-tax incomes are higher for wealthy households, she said.

“The way politics matters the most is how it makes people feel,” Mr. Peters said. “As real estate agents, we’re selling people a belief in their future. That’s a lot harder to do when people feel freaked out by the present. They’re less likely to take on large financial commitments when they’re concerned about the future.”

Personally, Mr. Peters is optimistic about the impact of the new power configuration for his market in New York.

“It’s not entirely irrelevant that the new Senate majority leader [Charles Schumer] is from New York,” he said.

Source: realtor.com

In Bel-Air, Mohamed Hadid’s doomed mega-mansion hits market before destruction

If you like your mansions controversial, half-built and doomed, then here’s a deal for you.

Celebrity real estate developer Mohamed Hadid’s Bel-Air mega-mansion, which he claimed would last forever before a court ordered it to be torn down, is on the market for $8.5 million, according to listing agent Jonathan Nash of Hilton & Hyland.

Once the property sells, the house will be destroyed with proceeds of the sale funding the demolition, which will take about six months. The listing was first reported by Forbes Global Properties.

Dubbed “the Starship Enterprise” by disgruntled neighbors, the unfinished 30,000-square-foot mansion on Strada Vecchia Road — both bigger and taller than city rules allowed — was crammed onto a 1.2-acre lot, leaving residents worried it would slide down its hillside perch and crush the homes below. They sued Hadid in 2018, citing construction violations in hopes of getting the sweeping steel-and-glass structure torn down.

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Hadid vowed to never demolish the house a few years ago, telling Town & Country magazine, “This house will last forever. Bel-Air will fall before this will.”

The 30,000-square-foot mansion was ordered to be torn down in 2019.

The 30,000-square-foot mansion was ordered to be torn down in 2019.

(NearMap)

In December 2019, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig D. Karlan declared it a danger to the public, citing inadequate foundation and ordering the demolition of the home.

The ruling followed years of court battles that saw Hadid plead no contest to criminal misdemeanor charges and sentenced to community service and fines. Hadid has denied wrongdoing, telling The Times that he pleaded no contest to “move on.”

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The property is now being marketed as a development opportunity, giving the buyer a chance to build something new on the prized land once the house is fully demolished. In court, Hadid’s attorneys claimed the cost of a tear-down would be $5 million.

Hadid — father of models Bella and Gigi Hadid — is known for his luxury real estate developments in Bel-Air and Beverly Hills and also his reality TV appearances on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Shahs of Sunset.” His original plans for the mammoth mansion included an enormous wine cellar and 70-seat IMAX theater, as well as a series of bedrooms and decks that were never approved by the city.

Source: latimes.com

What Is a Jumbo Loan? Finance Your Property in a Competitive Market

After years of building a stellar credit history, you may have decided you’re finally ready to invest in that vacation home, but you don’t have quite enough in the bank for that eye-catching property just yet. Maybe you want to begin your investment journey early so you don’t have to spend years bulking up your life’s savings.

If an aspiring luxury homeowner can’t sufficiently invest in a property with a standard mortgage loan, there’s an alternative form of financing: a jumbo mortgage. This mortgage allows those with a strong financial history who may not necessarily be a billionaire to get in on the luxury property market. But what is a jumbo mortgage (commonly known as a jumbo loan), and how exactly does it work?

Jumbo Loan Definition

A jumbo loan is a mortgage loan whose value is greater than the maximum amount of a traditional conforming loan. This threshold is determined by government-sponsored enterprises (GSE), such as Fannie Mae (FHMA) and Freddie Mac (FHLMC). Jumbo loans are for high-valued properties, like mansions, luxury housing, and homes in high-income areas. Since jumbo loan limits fall above GSE standards, they aren’t guaranteed or secured by the government. As a result, jumbo loans are riskier for borrowers than conforming mortgage loans.

Jumbo loans are meant for those who may earn a high salary but aren’t necessarily “wealthy” yet. Lenders typically appreciate this specific group because they tend to have solid wealth management histories and make better use of financial services, ensuring less of a risk for the private investor.

Due to the uncertain nature of a jumbo loan, borrowers need to present an extensive, secure credit history, as well as undergo a more meticulous vetting process if they’re considering taking out a jumbo loan. Also, while jumbo loans can come in handy for those without millions in savings, potential borrowers must still present adequate income documentation and an up-front payment from their cash assets.

Like conforming loans, jumbo loans are available at fixed or adjustable rates. Interest rates on jumbo loans are traditionally much higher than those on conforming mortgage loans. This has slowly started shifting over the last few years, with some jumbo loan rates even leveling out with or falling below conforming loan rates. For example, Bank of America’s 2021 estimates for a 5/1 adjustable-rate jumbo loan were equivalent to the same rate for a 5/1 adjustable conforming loan.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has set the new baseline limit for a conforming loan to $548,250 for 2021, which is an increase of nearly $40,000 since 2020. This new conforming loan limit provides the new minimum jumbo loan limits for 2021 for the majority of the United States. As the FHFA adjusts its estimates for median home values in the U.S., these limits adjust proportionally and apply to most counties in the U.S.

Certain U.S. counties and territories maintain jumbo loan limits that are even higher than the FHFA baseline, due to median home values that are higher than the baseline conforming loan limits. In states like Alaska and Hawaii, territories like Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and counties in select states, the minimum jumbo loan limit is $822,375, which is 150 percent of the rest of the country’s loan limit.

Jumbo Loan Rates for 2021

Ultimately, your jumbo loan limits and rates will depend on home values and how competitive the housing market is in the area where you’re looking to invest.

Jumbo Loan vs. Conforming Loan: Pros and Cons

The biggest question you might be asking yourself is “do the risks of a jumbo loan outweigh the benefits?” While jumbo loans can be a useful home financing resource, sometimes it makes more sense to aim for a property that a conforming loan would cover instead. Here are some pros and cons of jumbo loans that might make your decision easier.
Pros:

  • Solid investment strategy: Jumbo loans allow the investor to get a solid jump-start in the luxury real estate market, which can serve as a beneficial long-term asset.
  • Escape GSE restrictions: Jumbo loan limits are set to exceed those decided by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, so borrowers have more flexibility regarding constraints they would deal with under a conforming loan.
  • Variety in rates (fixed, adjustable, etc.): Though jumbo loan rates differ from conforming loan rates in many ways, they still offer similar options for what kinds of rates you want. Both offer 30-year fixed, 15-year fixed, 5/1 adjustable, and numerous other options for rates.

Cons:

  • Usually higher interest rates: Though jumbo loans are known for their higher interest rates, the discrepancies between those and conforming loan rates are starting to lessen each year.
  • More meticulous approval process: To secure a jumbo loan, you must have a near air-tight financial history, including a good credit score and debt-to-income ratio.
  • Higher initial deposit: Even though jumbo loans exist for those who are not able to finance a luxury property from savings alone, they still require a higher cash advance than a conforming loan.

Jumbo Loan vs. Conforming Loan- Pros and Cons

How To Qualify for a Jumbo Loan

As we mentioned before, jumbo loans require quite a bit more from you in the application process than a conforming loan would.

First and foremost, most jumbo lenders require a FICO credit score of somewhere around 700 or higher, depending on the lender. This ensures your lender that your financial track record is stable and trustworthy and that you don’t have any history of late or missed payments.

In addition to the amount of cash you have sitting in the bank, jumbo lenders will also look for ample documentation of your income source(s). This could include tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, and any documentation of secondary income. By requiring extensive documentation, lenders can determine your ability to make a sufficient down payment on your mortgage, as well as the likelihood that you will be able to make your payments on time. Usually lenders require enough cash assets to make around a 20 percent down payment.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, lenders will also require that you have maintained a low level of debt compared to your gross monthly income. A low debt-to-income ratio, combined with a high credit score and sufficient assets, will have you on your way to securing that jumbo loan in no time.

Furthermore, you will also likely need to get an appraisal to verify the value of the desired property, in order to ensure that the property is valued highly enough that you will actually qualify for a jumbo loan.

Key Takeaways:

  • Jumbo loans provide a solid alternative to those with a steady financial history who want to invest in luxury properties but don’t have enough in the bank yet.
  • A jumbo loan qualifies as any amount exceeding the FHFA’s baseline conforming loan limit: $548,250 in 2021.
  • Jumbo loan rates are typically higher than those of conforming loans, although the gap between the two has begun to close within the last decade.
  • To secure a jumbo loan, one must meet stringent financial criteria, including a high credit score, a low DTI, and the ability to make a sizable down payment.

For any financially responsible individual, it’s important to always maintain that responsibility in any investment. Each decision made should be carefully thought out, and you should keep in mind any future implications.

While jumbo loans can be a valuable stepping stone to success in competitive real estate, always make sure your income and budget are in a secure position before deciding to invest. You always want to stay realistic, and if you aren’t interested in spending a few more years saving or financing through a conforming loan, then a jumbo loan may be for you!

Sources: Investopedia | Bank of America | Federal Housing Finance Agency

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