Cost Basis & Capital Gains

When calculating how much your home has increased in value, you have to identify its COST BASIS – meaning anything and everything that you spent to pay for the product. The IRS defines a capital improvement as a home improvement that adds market value to the home, prolongs its useful life or adapts it to new uses. Minor repairs and maintenance jobs like changing door locks, repairing a leak or fixing a broken window do not qualify as capital improvements.

Capital improvements and things you can put in your COST BASIS include:

  • The price you paid for the property, including settlement costs, such as: title fees, legal fees, recording fees, survey fees, and any transfer taxes or fees you paid in connection with the purchase.
  • Additions: An added extra bedroom or bathroom, a deck on the back of the home, a new garage, an added porch or patio….anything that adds value to your home.
  • Lawn and grounds improvements: Value-adding landscaping projects, driveway or walkway construction, a new fence or retaining wall, adding a swimming pool, etc can qualify as property improvements.
  • Exterior improvements: New windows, a new roof, and new siding are examples. Any and all renovation costs including ANY and ALL costs related to that renovation work.
  • Insulation: This includes insulation in the attic, inside walls, under floors, or around pipes and ductwork.
  • Systems: Installing a new heating or air conditioning system, new ductwork, adding a central vacuuming system, wiring improvements, installing a security system, solar, geothermal, generators, batteries, and putting in lawn irrigation are improvements.
  • Plumbing: Installing a septic system, water heater, or soft water system adds value.
  • Interior improvements: New appliances, kitchen renovations, new flooring/carpeting, the installation of a fireplace, etc.

If you needed to make home improvements in order to sell your home, you can deduct those expenses as selling costs as long as they were made within 90 days of the closing. Your COST BASIS does NOT include hazard insurance premiums, moving expenses, or any mortgage-related charges (mortgage insurance, credit report fees, and appraisal costs are out) and general repairs that are essential to keep something working do not qualify. Yard maintenance, HOA fees, and real estate taxes don’t count. Always check with your accountant.

Keeping tabs of these costs throughout the lifetime of a house is wise.


How do you calculate the capital-gains tax when selling?

Subtract your COST BASIS, commissions, and closing costs from your sales price to determine the taxable gain. Those who lived in the home for two out of the last five years can also subtract the $250,000 exemption if single (or $500,000 if two people), and then the rest is the taxable amount. Long-term capital gains — that is, gains on assets held for a at least a year – are generally taxed at a lower rate than earned income (money that you get from working).

In 2022, the IRS ranges are as follows:

  • 0 Percent – $0-$41,675 Single/$0-$83,350 Married
  • 15 Percent – $41,676-$459,750 Single/$83,351-$517,200 Married
  • 20 percent – $459,751+ Single/$517,201 Married

The State of California will take their chunk too. Check with your tax adviser!

Michele the Surfer

People have asked how I liked the article about Oceanside’s resurgence.

I loved it – they featured our own Michele Bolanos in the photo (above)!

The author noted that the purple palace got bulldozed last year (the last remaining strip club in town), and they are building upscale apartments there now. More gentrification is on-going too – an excerpt:

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton (population about 38,000) has been the northern next-door neighbor to Oceanside (population about 174,000) since it was established during World War II. Around downtown, you still see several military surplus stores, tattoo parlors and barber shops, where many Marines get their “high-and-tight” haircuts weekly.

With so many active and retired military on hand, the city has a more blue-collar, conservative feel than most other SoCal beach towns. It’s also more culturally diverse, according to the most recent U.S. Census numbers.

But, as new businesses multiply, Oceanside is looking a bit more like its civilian neighbors to the south (Carlsbad and Encinitas) and north (San Clemente).

“We liked it the way it was. But it’s got to move,” said Jonny Gomez, 84, owner of the Esquire barber shop since the early 1960s.

“I believe we’re now up to eight coffee shops in downtown,” said Gumaro Escarcega, chief operations officer of the civic nonprofit MainStreet Oceanside. With the cost of living rising fast — Zillow estimates that home values are up about 25% in the last year — “we have to be careful because of gentrification,” he added.


Beach houses west of the I-5 are selling for more than $1,000,000, so there are no real bargains to be had. But it is in the path of progress – here is my tour from last year:

San Diego Case-Shiller Index, Dec.

San Diego had the fifth highest year-over-year gain in 2021, behind metros with much lower price points (Phoenix, Tampa, Miami, and Dallas).

Our month-over-month gain in December was #1 nationwide (tied with Miami).

San Diego Non-Seasonally-Adjusted CSI changes

Observation Month
M-o-M chg
Y-o-Y chg
Jan ’20
Jan ’21

The experts have run out of superlatives, and roll out the same old explanations to describe the uptick in December – which was really the third month of the ramp-up into 2022:

Home prices rose 18.8% in 2021, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller US National Home Price Index, the biggest increase in 34 years of data and substantially ahead of 2020’s 10.4% gain.

All regions saw price gains last year, but were strongest in the South and the Southeast, each up over 25%. Phoenix, Tampa and Miami reported the highest annual gains among the 20 cities in the index in December. Phoenix led the way for the 31st consecutive month with prices in December 32.5% over the year before. It was followed by Tampa with a 29.4% increase, and Miami with a 27.3% increase.

“We continue to see very strong growth at the city level,” said Craig J. Lazzara, Managing Director at S&P DJI. “All 20 cities saw price increases in 2021, and prices in all 20 are at their all-time highs.”

Over the past several months home prices have been rising at very high, but decelerating rates, said Lazzara. But that deceleration paused in December.

Lazzara said that strength in the US housing market is being driven in part by a change in location preferences as households react to the pandemic.

A persistent low inventory of homes dropped to record low levels in December, according to the National Association of Realtors. In the face of continued strong demand, prices were pushed higher. Newly constructed homes are in the pipeline, but a long-running shortage in supply combined with the lingering effects of the pandemic mean it will take years to meet demand.

“More data will be required to understand whether this demand surge simply represents an acceleration of purchases that would have occurred over the next several years rather than a more permanent secular change,” Lazzara said. “In the short term, we should soon begin to see the impact of increasing mortgage rates on home prices.”

Mortgage rates, which had risen only gradually since August, began to abruptly climb in late December closing in on the 4% threshold for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

“Home prices continued to surpass expectations in December, but a marked change may be ahead for growth as rising mortgage rates eat into homebuyer purchasing power,” said Danielle Hale, Realtor.com’s chief economist. “While typical asking prices continue to accelerate, the pace of median sales price growth has slowed, signaling a potential gap between what buyers are willing and able to pay and what sellers are hoping to net.

Higher mortgage rates have added more than $200 to the monthly cost of a typical for-sale home since December 2020 — when rates were at all-time lows — with more than half of that increase occurring over the past eight weeks, Hale said.

“With home prices expected to continue rising, even at a slower pace, affordability will increasingly challenge 2022 buyers as a decade-long underbuilding trend has left the housing market 5.8 million homes short of household growth,” said Hale. “At the same time, we expect pandemic trends like workplace flexibility and competitive labor market conditions to give workers the boost in income and wider search areas they need to navigate a still-challenging housing market successfully.”

Southern Arizona

I’ve been hoping to promote the best areas in nearby states for readers to consider for relocations, and have wanted to feature lower-priced homes in order to make the move really worth it.

Yesterday I spoke with Bill Ims, a former Carlsbad realtor and probably the nicest guy in the business. He and his wife moved to Green Valley, Arizona, and love it!

He has been selling homes there, and his latest listing is on the golf course for only $370,000!


Green Valley is 20 miles south of Tucson and an easy drive from San Diego – tell him I sent you:



Country Living!

Check out our new listing that is priced at $251/sf!

39221 Daily Rd., Fallbrook, CA 92028

4 br + den/2.5 ba, 3,963sf

YB: 1991

5.14 acres

LP = $995,000

The perfect home of the future – get out of the rat race and enjoy fine country living in this gorgeous home bathed in natural light with panoramic views in every direction! Huge bedrooms, walk-in closets, hardwood floors, 2 fireplaces, and gourmet kitchen with chef’s island and extra-large pantry. Valencia orange trees and lemons too. For those working from home, it has exceptional internet access! Thinking of buying a home for your kids or an ideal rental property? This could be for you! Bring the RVs, toys, trailers, etc.

Open 12-3pm Saturday and Sunday.


Today’s Buyers Have Excellent Credit


  1. If there is anyone left who thinks the bubble will burst and prices will come down substantially, let’s note that it would take a multitude of people with excellent credit scores and what was once a big down payment to give those up.  The vast majority of today’s buyers have outstanding credit – it would take a disaster for them to walk away.
  2. Agents used to tout how great their buyer’s credit score was – but today it’s expected.
  3. We don’t need alternative financing any more. Those who don’t qualify are left out of the game instead.

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