Real Estate Equity – Investment Capital, Debt Consolidation or a Retirement Nest Egg?

There is a significant interrelationship between personal investment planning, credit purchasing and real estate ownership. On the face of it that may seem obvious, but the complexity of the interrelationship bears some scrutiny.

During the last quarter of the 20th century there was an amazing proliferation of the use of credit card purchasing. Credit card purchasing continues to gain use as a means for medium term financing for larger household needs, as well as, a means to spread over time individual fluctuations of income and other changes in the economy. Unfortunately, many Americans caught up in the economic prosperity of the several past decades have used credit cards to amass debt beyond or challenging their ability to repay.

It has been over two decades since Congress removed from the federal income tax code the ability to deduct interest payments on most credit/debt instruments “except” home mortgages. This Congressional enactment immediately catapulted the home mortgage market to the forefront. Suddenly, 2nd home mortgages and complete home refinancing became an attractive tax-incentivized debt consolidation tool. Of course, the financial sense of using a home mortgage for debt consolidation depends on several key factors. Among them is the rate of interest in the home mortgage marketplace, personal circumstances and a willingness to trade short-term debt for long-term debt on the prospect of real estate appreciation.

There continues to be substantial debate regarding the financial sense of maintaining equity in a home. In the simplest terms the two sides of the issue are:

Equity in a home can be put to better use. Essentially this means home equity that could be turned into cash should be invested in financial instruments that will outpace appreciation in the value of the home. This assumes that home equity cash can be put to more effective financial use. Second home or investment property purchases, tuition for education and high interest credit card debt are the more common uses of cash out refinancing or second mortgage financing and can all be considered a more effective application of equity depending upon circumstances.

* Conversely, as the home loan is paid down and home value appreciation develops the equity that builds eventually becomes a retirement nest egg. A debt free home is can represent utopia for those entering their retirement years.

As the debate goes on, the truth of the matter is that the best approach depends on factors such as economic climate, personal timing, property value appreciation and personal investment discipline.

Then there are the tax issues that play into nearly all financial decisions. As previously noted, home mortgages and second mortgages are tax deductible. This factor can be a significant decision point. The interest paid to the lender, as part of a mortgage payment, is deductible from federal and most state income taxes. Lenders provide notification of the amount of interest paid on a home mortgage during the tax year, and that amount may be itemized as a “qualified residence interest” deduction on federal, state and local income tax returns. The interest deduction is applicable to debt assumed for home ownership up to $ 1 million. The deduction applies to first and second mortgages, as well as, other debt instruments used to finance a primary residence.

Debt that is assumed for any purpose, but financed through a home loan, is also deductible so long as the amount of indebtedness does not exceed the lesser of $100,000 or the fair market value of the home.

Refinancing an existing mortgage to release equity without the additional benefit of an interest rate reduction may not be the most frugal approach. As with any mortgage there are specific closing costs associated with the transaction that is mostly based upon the amount of the loan. Conversely, a second mortgage for the purpose of extracting equity would normally create a much smaller loan and consequently lower closing cost.

When considering a second mortgage there are two distinct structures that normally come into play. The “Home Equity Line of Credit” generally offers a low interest initial interest rate and only requires the payment of the accumulated interest each month. The advantage of this structure is that it is a line of credit with a limit and the consumer only pays interest on the amount actually used. The risk factor is that it is a floating interest rate adjusted to a particular financial index such as “prime” or “cost of funds”. The option less adventurous borrowers elect is the standard fixed rate second mortgage amortized over 15, 20, or 30 years.

Regardless of the structure of the loan current lending criteria will likely restrict the amount of the mortgage to 80% “combined” loan to value (CLTV). This means that the maximum amount borrowed including the existing first mortgage cannot exceed 80% of the value of the property as determined by the lender’s evaluation.

Dorset Cottages

Dorset is set to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK this year and when you look a little closer on the map, it’s easy to see why.
Dorset is home to many famous landmarks and heritage sites and then of course there are the famous sandy beaches. The Jurassic Coast stretches down 95 miles of the English Channel and was named England’s first Uncategorized World Heritage site in 2001. But if breathtaking scenery and million year old fossils aren’t your thing then don’t worry because the beaches also provide access to some fantastic water sports for people of all ages and abilities, whether it’s a high octane Jet Ski ride or a relaxed tootle around in a pedalo.

And for those of you who are old enough to indulge in a little bit of nostalgia there’s also ‘that hill’ – the scene of that famous Hovis bread advert of the early seventies, which now plays host to the annual Gold Hill Fair. The fair brings a range of activities and shopping stalls to the area over one weekend in the summer.

There is really only one way to sample the county of Dorset however and that’s in a traditional Dorset cottage. Staying in a Dorset cottage puts this magnificent place quite literally on your doorstep. The quaint coastal villages and market towns have hundreds of cottages available for rent, all of which have a certain character about them.

The dog walkers amongst you will be pleased to know that many of the cottages, particularly those near the coast and on hiking routes are pet friendly so you can bring them along with you, and you should because they will enjoy it almost as much as you will.

One last tip…there really is so much to see and do so just be sure to book a long enough stay, even if it’s to just recover from your holiday.

Airport Apps: A Win-Win for the Travel Industry

Unpredictable weather, long security lines and extremely time sensitive logistical planning makes it easy to imagine that your last trip to the airport could have involved overstressed airport staff rescheduling a flight for a bunch of cranky travelers that cannot understand why they have to spend the night in Frankfurt and pay 10 euros for a 4-pack of batteries.

It’s not the same at every airport, but I have a feeling we’ve all been there at some point in our travel history. This being said, mobile apps provide airports with a huge opportunity to simplify the travel experience as well as provide travel services and tools to minimize stress.

Receive delay notifications on your mobile before leaving the house
Look for alternative flights when your flight is cancelled
Pre-purchase your ticket for the Heathrow Express on your tablet
Breeze through security with your digital boarding pass
Forward yourself your flight, hotel and car rental info an automatically create a travel itinerary
Snap a pic of your parking spot and tag on a map with GPS
Receive a discount coupon from Starbucks after checking-in at the airport via Facebook

What’s really exciting about this space is that all the features listed above already exist and would impact your travel experience in such a positive way.

But if you took a second to think about what’s to come with NFC, QR codes and ERP solutions – mobile could literally revolutionize what we know today as ‘just another trip to the airport.’

Airport apps: It’s win-win

While the ‘Time Killer App’ you played during your 2-hour delay in Amsterdam was a life-saver, the reality now-a-days is that we are always connected to our mobile devices. Airports can take advantage of this opportunity to positively impact their bottom line pre-during-and-post travel by:

Leveraging the unique power of mobile to increase revenue generation
Creating a richer channel for affiliate merchants to reach the consumer
Anticipating delay drivers, plan preventive actions and take recovery measures
Providing cutting edge customer service

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This means push notifications for final boarding calls, rich promotional splash pages for seasonal offers, coupon system for airport shops, integrating booking engines for flights, hotels and transportation as well as providing city guides, airport maps and weather information for all arrival and departure cities.

How to get it right

This is a business critical app that would differentiate any airport from its peers if it effectively aligned business priorities with the evolving needs of their customers.

Accurate real-time data mixed with valuable content
Entice travelers to purchase and pre-reserve products or services
Ensure travelers get the most out of their airport visit

From there – the sky is the limit.