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Considerations for Owning a Vacation Home

Web Admin - Monday, August 31, 2015

Illinois real estate lawyerWhen owning a vacation home, there are several issues that need to be considered, including estate planning, how the property will be owned, and potential tax implications. If you plan on purchasing a vacation home with a friend or a family member, deciding how the property will be owned is important. Ordinarily, this type of ownership is what is known as tenancy in common. Under a tenancy in common ownership, each owner is named on the deed, along with each owner’s respective ownership percentage.

An alternative is for all of the prospective owners to form a limited liability company (LLC) and have it purchase and own the home. While this does create the additional task of forming the LLC, the individual assets of each member of the LLC are protected. A disadvantage is that the individuals of the LLC cannot claim property tax or mortgage interest deductions.

Tax Issues

The capital gains tax applies to the portion of the proceeds (upon the sale of a home) that exceeds the purchase price of the property plus the cost of any improvements made. For most taxpayers, the tax rate for long-term capital gains is 15 percent. An important provision of the tax code is the primary residence exclusion to the capital gains tax. This exclusion allows for married couples to exclude up to $500,000 ($250,000 for single owners) in capital gains for the sale of a principal residence.

Critically, the home must have been the principal residence (where you and your spouse live) for two of the last five years. This period does not need to be consecutively; rather, the home must have been the principal residence for a total of 24 months out of the last five years. The primary residence exclusion can be used multiple times, but cannot be used more than once every two years.

In relation to vacation homes, ordinarily the primary residence exclusion cannot be used (as a vacation home is normally not the principal residence). However, if the vacation home is established as the principal residence (by satisfying the two out of the past five year rule), the exclusion can be used. This may be very beneficial if a vacation home significantly increased in value.  

Passing Home to Heirs

Often, owners of vacation homes desire to keep those homes within the family. As a result, this requires planning for how the home will be passed down. There are numerous different methods of leaving property to a beneficiary. Each of those methods has different advantages and disadvantages. It is important to keep in mind that the following only briefly describes just three of the methods for passing on property. For more detailed information about estate planning, you should speak with an attorney.

For example, property can be passed to children or other heirs upon the owner’s death. This creates a step-up in basis for the beneficiary, which is a large advantage should the beneficiary sell the property. It also allows for the owner to retain complete control until death. However, it is not a tax-friendly option for the owner.

Alternatively, an owner can give the property as an outright gift. Under this method, the owner transfers the property by deed to the beneficiary. This accomplishes an immediate transfer of ownership. However, the federal gift tax limits the amount that can be transferred. Additionally, the step-up in basis is lost.

Finally, one option that is becoming more popular is to place the property into a trust for named beneficiaries. Under this plan, the owner reserves the right to use the property for a specified period of time. After the trust term expires, the beneficiaries take ownership of the property, with significantly reduced, or eliminated, federal and state taxes. Critically, for this method to work, the person who formed the trust must out-live the trust term.

For more information about the ownership of a vacation home, reach out to an experienced Illinois real estate attorney today. Our firm proudly represents individuals throughout the northwest suburbs, including the communities of Inverness, South Barrington, Arlington Heights, Long Grove, Mount Prospect, Riverwoods, Schaumburg, and Kenilworth.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.

A Beginner’s Guide to Applying for a Mortgage Loan

Web Admin - Thursday, February 20, 2014

illinois mortgage loan lawyerFor many first-time home buyers, the process of applying for a mortgage can seem complex. This guide will explain the basics of the process, such as the timeline for applying for a mortgage, the documents that applicants should procure and bring, and the credit score and down payment that applicants should expect.

The Mortgage Timeline

The mortgage process begins with a pre-approval application. The purpose of the preapproval process is to let the bank or lender look into the applicant’s finances, in order to make sure that they can afford a loan. This is when banks ask for most of the documentation. Often they want things such as:

- a list of addresses and landlords;
- a list of previous employers;
- pay-stubs from the previous one or two months, with a person’s year-to-date earnings included as well;
- the last two year’s W-2 forms;
- two months of bank statements for all accounts;
- a list of all debts not on the applicant’s credit report; and
- a list of all other real estate that the applicant already owns.

If the applicant has already found a house that they like, and their offer has been accepted, then the bank will also want the seller’s contact information and a copy of the contract. Being ready to provide these documents can help speed up the mortgage process.

Once a person goes through the pre-approval process and has made an offer on a house, the bank will order an appraisal on it. The appraiser will go through the house and determine the value, and then the bank will take their assessment into account when calculating how large a loan they can offer. Generally speaking, the bank will base their offer on either the appraisal value or the purchase price, depending on which is lower.

After the appraisal, the loan underwriter will look at all the documentation to make sure the loan is a good investment for the bank. From start to finish, the whole process usually takes about four to six weeks on the bank’s end, but timelines may vary, and asking the lender in the beginning may be a good idea.

Credit Scores and Down Payments

In addition to the array of documentation, lenders will also expect borrowers to have good credit scores and money available to make a down payment on the house. The rule of thumb for a conventional loan, according to U.S. News, is that a borrower would need a credit score of at least 650. Conventional loans also require, on average, a down payment of around 20 percent. Borrowers may have an alternative in the Fair Housing Act loan, which is a loan insured by the federal government. These loans offer a 3.5 percent down payment with a 580 credit score, and a 10 percent down payment with a 500 credit score.

If you are going through the process of buying a home, contact an Illinois real estate attorney today. Our team serves people in many northwest suburban areas including Inverness, Barrington and Long Grove.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


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