9-28-18: Are there any Propositions on the November ballot that are real estate related?

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Question of the week:  Are there any Propositions on the November ballot that are real estate related?

 

 Answer:  With the election just over month away, and your absentee ballot available in ten days, and the onslaught of television ads just starting, now is a good time to review some of the propositions on your ballot.

 

A brief bio break before I get into the ballot measures. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Studies from Pitzer College (1984) and have continued to be a student of both disciplines. My philosophy is that economics is the foundation of most personal, organizational and political decisions—if you cannot afford it you cannot do it, and if  you do the long-term consequences will generally not be positive. With that out of the way let’s look at the real estate related propositions on your November ballot.

 

There are four ballot measures that in some way involve real estate in California, Props 1, 2, 5 and 10. Here is a brief description of each and my position (if you are so inclined to care).

 

Proposition 1: Affordable Housing Bond If passed this measure authorizes the state to borrow $4 billion in bonds for affordable housing. The funds would be broken into different areas of expenditure with the largest amount being for the building and renovating of rental units. Other funds would be used to provide home loan assistance to Veterans, housing construction in densely populated areas, down payment assistance programs for low and moderate income potential homebuyers and housing development for agricultural workers.

 

Understanding that more affordable housing is needed in the state I do not feel adding $4 billion in bond payments to our budget and cycling the money through state and local bureaucracies is the way to provide more affordable housing. Supply and demand create prices, some of these funds are targeted in a manner to increase demand, which increases prices, and other funds are targeted to rather ambiguous objectives that appear to expand the power of the government in the market place. I feel that local ordinances and applying tax benefits to developers and property owners would be a more efficient way to create more affordable housing. Dumping government funds into a market has never been shown as a way to lower market prices. I will be voting No on Prop 1. I expect this measure to pass given the lack of a unified opposition and the funds coming into the “Yes” side of the ballot.

 

Proposition 2: Mental Health Housing If passed this measure authorizes the state to re-allocate funds currently directed to county mental health services across the state to fund supportive housing for those suffering mental illness. With a directive and the funding the state can make strides in providing long-term solutions to mental illness sufferers and provide blueprint for counties to help with their homeless problems. Across levels of government funds have been allocated for the homeless with no impact on the problem—it seems to be getting worse. By creating housing for the mentally ill that includes on site social services and medical services this proposition is the best solution I have seen proposed so far at any level to start to make a dent in the issue. I will be voting Yes on Prop 2. I expect this measure to pass given its purpose and how much the issue has been one of top concern to most of the state’s residents.

 

Proposition 5: Residential Property Tax Portability If passed this measure would expand the current property tax transfer rules of Props 60 and 90. Under current rules if homeowner over 55 sells their current residence and purchases a new residence of lower value the homeowner can transfer their current tax base to their new home. The portability of the current tax base is limited as only a few counties in the state allow those otherwise eligible to transfer their current tax base into their county (i.e. homeowner selling Orange County could not transfer tax to new home in Shasta County). As well the current laws allow only a one-time transfer.

 

If Prop 5 is passed the one-time transfer limit is eliminated and the purchase price of your new home does not eliminate your ability to transfer your tax base to lower your taxes if your new home costs more than the home you sold—your tax base will go up but not to market value. As well if you purchase a home for lower value than the home you sold your tax base will be lower than your current tax base. Here are two examples to hopefully clarify how the measure will work if passed.

 

Buying more expensive home:  A couple that qualifies for the property tax transfer owns a home in Los Angeles County they purchased many years ago for $110,000. Today the taxable value is $200,000 and their base tax is $2200 per year ($200,000 x 1.1% state property tax rate). They sell their home for $600,000 and purchase a new home in San Luis Obispo County for $700,000. Their new property tax base is calculated by subtracting the sales price from their prior home from the sales price of the new home and adding the result to the tax base from their prior home:

 

New home price minus prior home sales price: $700,000 – $600,000 = $100,000

Price differential plus prior home tax base: $100,000 + $200,000 = $300,000

 

The new tax base is $300,000, for annual property tax base of $3300 ($300,000 x 1.1%). Without Prop 5 the tax base would be $7700 per year (market value $700,000 x 1.1%), the homeowners are saving $4400 per year.

 

Buying less expensive home: This gets a little more complicated as the new tax base is reduced by a percentage based on the difference between the old property value and the new property value. Same couple sells same home for $600,000 with $200,000 tax base. They purchase a new home in San Luis Obispo County for $450,000.

 

New home price divided by prior home sales price: $450,000 ÷ $600,000 = 75%

Old tax base times price differential percentage: $200,000 x 75% = $150,000

 

The new tax base is $150,000 for annual taxes of $1650 per year, a savings of $550 per year over what they are currently paying.

 

I think the best tax law in America is California’s Prop 13. We pay some of the highest income and sales taxes in the country, but homeowners have the best property tax protection from the state of any state in the country. Prop 5 makes the Prop 13 even more generous to homeowners over the age of 55. Because of the over-generosity of Prop 5 I will vote No. If Prop 5 were to mirror Prop 60 and only eliminate the inability to transfer tax bases over any county lines in the state and enable more than one transfer, particularly in cases of divorce or spouse who have passed away, I would vote for Prop 5. As it is written with homeowners purchasing a new home and being able to lower their tax base to me is not equitable to the counties, state or other tax payers and is not needed. And most importantly, if Prop 5 does pass I see it as a strong rallying issue for those who want to eliminate Prop 13 or severely alter it so that higher property taxes result in the future. I expect this measure to fail.

 

Word has it that the California Association of Realtors is already working on a revision to Prop 5 for the 2020 ballot should the measure fail this year. I hope they do as I would like to see the current Prop 60 benefits available to be transferred across county lines. Were I to be asked to craft a revised proposition I would make the changes I suggest changing the calculation on purchase a new home for a higher price to increase the tax base from formula in Prop 5, eliminate ability to lower tax base by purchasing a new lower priced home, eliminated unlimited ability to transfer the tax base but enable additional transfers due to divorce and/or spousal death, and finally I would raise the age of eligibility to 60 from 55.

 

 

Proposition 10: Local Rent Control Initiative If passed this measure will roll back a 1995 law that limited the use of rent control in California (Costa-Hawkins) and enable greater ability for local government to pass, and/or expand, rent control in their jurisdictions. Costa-Hawkins disallowed cities from enacting rent control on properties first occupied in 1995 and single family dwellings (including condos and townhomes). If passed Prop 10 would enable rent control on all rental units, including single family dwellings—and room rentals inside a single family dwelling.

 

Any rent control imposed by government on landlords benefits a very narrow group of residents: those already renting. Wherever rent control has been enacted rental prices are higher than similar geographically nearby markets. Rental units are scarce in rent control communities as tenants do not move to preserve their low housing cost. Because of the scarcity of available units with a rent control unit does come on the market the landlord is able to get premium rent for the unit since there is little competition. Over time as each generation of rent controlled tenants vacate units the rents in the market climb disproportionate to the surrounding markets.

 

According to a spokesman from the California Business Roundtable there are currently 12,000 rental units across the state approved for construction. Every project is on hold until after the November election. Should Prop 10 pass the projects will not start building as the investors/builders do not want their investments to be restricted from market returns by local governments enacting rent control. I will vote No on Prop 10. I expect this measure to fail.

 

There have been many great benefits to Californians as a result of the ballot initiative process, ad many great detriments as well. It is our duty to study the issues, and candidates, presented and understand both sides before casting our ballots. I hope the above comments on the propositions involving real estate provide you with a decent perspective and spur you on to study these and the other propositions more thoroughly.

 

 

Have a question? Ask me!

 

A busy week for mortgage rate impacting news. First, and most expected, the Fed increased it Fed Funds Rate by 0.25%, as expected. The immediate result was the prime rate, and therefore rates on Home Equity Lines of Credit, also increase 0.25%. Prime rate is now at 5.25%, up one percent from one year ago. The Fed announcement also indicated it is sticking to schedule of one more increase in rates this year and three next year. The news is mortgage rate neutral since the rate increase was expected and the Fed did not announce they anticipate more increases than previously announced.

 

Second quarter Gross Domestic Product went through its third and final evaluation and there was no revision made to the prior revision putting the growth for the quarter at 4.2% annualized. With no change to the growth number there was no impact on mortgages.

 

Last Friday of the month gives us important data on consumers as personal income, consumer consumption and inflation data are released. Good news on all fronts for mortgage rates as personal income matched last month’s increase of 0.3% and the core inflation rate dropped from 0.4% in August to flat this month—meaning those higher wages will go further. Consumer increased spending by 0.3%, lower growth than previous months but still the sixth month in a row of positive spending growth and the eleventh of the past twelve months and 3.8% overall gain in spending from last year. Overall the news should be somewhat negative for rates as it shows economic strength is continuing and should continue through the third and fourth quarters absent some catastrophic event.

 

 

Rates for Friday September 28, 2018: Intra-week rates had a bounce up and then down and the result is the conforming rate is flat from last Friday and the high-balance rate is down slightly for the week. Many analysists are hinting at a possible decline, very small decline, in rates in the next week or so; however, this analysist is not convinced of the underlying factors that would make a such a prediction a strong one.

 

FIXED RATE MORTGAGES AT COST OF 1.25 POINTS LOCKED FOR 45 DAYS:

30 year conforming                                            4.625%    Flat

30 year high-balance conforming                      4.75%     Down 0.125%

 

Please note that these are base rates and adjustments may be added for condominiums, refinances, credit scores, loan to value, no impound account and period rate is locked. Rates are based on 20% down with 740 FICO score for purchase mortgages.

 

 

I have a pretty strong background in politics and economics, which perhaps comes through in my WR&MU. My mom grew up in a very politically connected household in Sacramento. Her father was an attorney and lobbyist and her mother was socially active in political circles. My mother continued the family behavior. When my sister, brother and I were growing up we did so with campaign pins and bumper stickers, meet-and-greets with candidates and seeing our mom very briefly on the television from the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami.

 

Growing up my goal was to become and attorney like my grandfather and both uncles and I majored in economics and political studies in college. My study habits my last few semesters were not great so I put law school on hold to get some discipline. I started earning money, found the mortgage industry and law school was permanently in the rearview mirror. However, my interest in the two disciplines that comprised my major has never left me and I continue to study and read history, economics and political books, articles and journals. For those wondering, the basis of my personal philosophy is that economics is the overwhelming factor that influences politics and therefore history, be it within a family (microeconomics) or nation (macroeconomics). As I often say, take care of the economics and most other issues sort themselves out.

 

Whatever your interest I hope you are able to spend personal time daily, weekly, monthly to indulge in your interest and continue to expand your scope of knowledge and understanding.

 

Have a great week,

 

Dennis

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