Question: Our house was titled “joint tenant with right of survivorship” after my husband inherited the property in 1998. We were not married at the time. However we legally married in 2013. Will one of us get the step-up in tax basis when the other passes, or do we have to re-title the house some way? We also want to avoid probate. We live in California.
Answer: As you know, California is one of the community property states that allows both halves of a property to get a step-up in tax basis when one spouse dies. This double step-up can be a huge tax saver, since none of the appreciation that happened before the death is taxed. Other community property states include Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In Alaska, spouses can sign an agreement to make specific assets community property.
In other, common law states, only half of the property gets the step-up to a new tax basis when one spouse dies. The other half retains its original tax basis.
Although assets acquired during a marriage are generally considered community property regardless of how they’re titled, in your case the property was acquired before marriage.
The current title of joint tenants with right of survivorship would avoid probate but it would not achieve full step-up in basis when the first spouse dies, said Mark Luscombe, principal analyst for tax research firm Wolters Kluwer.
So you’d be smart to get the property retitled as “community property with right of survivorship,” which allows you to avoid probate and get the double step-up after the first death. California allows this “best of both worlds” option, as do Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Wisconsin, have this option. In other community property states, you’d have to choose between probate avoidance and getting the full step-up.
This is nothing. What would be entertaining is if they required the listing agent’s commission to be exposed too.
The Department of Justice today filed a civil lawsuit against the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) alleging that NAR established and enforced illegal restraints on the ways that REALTORS® compete.
The Antitrust Division simultaneously filed a proposed settlement that requires NAR to repeal and modify its rules to:
Provide greater transparency to home buyers about the commissions of brokers representing home buyers (buyer brokers),
Cease misrepresenting that buyer broker services are free,
Eliminate rules that prohibit filtering multiple listing services (MLS) listings based on the level of buyer broker commissions, and
Change its rules and policy which limit access to lockboxes to only NAR-affiliated real estate brokers.
If approved, the settlement will enhance competition in the real estate market, resulting in more choice and better service for consumers.
“Buying a home is one of life’s biggest and most important financial decisions,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Home buyers and sellers should be aware of all the broker fees they are paying. Today’s settlement prevents traditional brokers from impeding competition — including by internet-based methods of home buying and selling — by providing greater transparency to consumers about broker fees. This will increase price competition among brokers and lead to better quality of services for American home buyers and sellers.”
According to the complaint, NAR’s anticompetitive rules, policies, and practices include: (i) prohibiting MLSs that are affiliated with NAR from disclosing to prospective buyers the commission that the buyer broker will earn; (ii) allowing buyer brokers to misrepresent to buyers that a buyer broker’s services are free; (iii) enabling buyer brokers to filter MLS listings based on the level of buyer broker commissions offered; and (iv) limiting access to the lockboxes that provide licensed brokers with access to homes for sale to brokers who work for a NAR-affiliated MLS. These NAR rules, policies, practices have been widely adopted by NAR-affiliated MLSs resulting in decreased competition among real estate brokers.
NAR is a trade association of more than 1.4 million-member REALTORS® who are engaged in residential real estate brokerages across the United States. NAR has over 1,400 local associations (called “Member Boards”) organized as MLSs through which REALTORS® share information about homes for sale in their communities. Among other activities, NAR establishes and enforces rules, policies, and practices that are adopted by the Member Boards and their affiliated MLSs.
Watch your TV placement when staging a home. Real estate professionals faced with the issue are divided over where in the living room a TV should go—or even whether it belongs there at all.
Hayley Westoff, a Compass real estate professional, told Apartment Therapy that if the TV setup feels wrong, buyers could be turned off by the space. After all, buyers want to visualize themselves living inside a home, and watching TV is a big part of many people’s lives.
On the other hand, Allison Chiaramonte, a Warburg Realty agent in New York, doesn’t see the presence of a TV as a critical matter when staging a space. A TV shouldn’t be the focus, she says.
“While some think keeping a television in the living room at an open house is crucial, others say it takes away from the taste of the home,” Antonia DeBianchi writes on Apartment Therapy. “It’s a problem that sellers don’t seem to talk about, and its solution isn’t the clearest, either.”
When a room is awkwardly laid out, it could add to the challenges. For example, above a fireplace is a common spot for TVs, but if a mantle is too high or the fireplace is on the diagonal, its placement could feel unrealistic or awkward.
“Rearranging the furniture, and putting either a TV or mirror where the TV would go … really helps the buyer visualize what that setup would look like,” Westoff told Apartment Therapy.
Also, if the TV is outdated, many real estate pros suggest removing it. “If you have a really old, thick, crazy TV, it definitely makes people wonder why it’s not upgraded and wonder what else in the house might not be upgraded,” Chiaramonte told Apartment Therapy.
The best compromise: Have the TV blend in. If it’s mounted in a cabinet, close the cabinet if you can. If sellers have a giant TV, try to tone it down by tuning it to soundless images showing nature or peaceful scenery so it shows more as art.
I ran into a 3-offer bidding war yesterday where we were competing against a buyer who had offered a $50,000 non-refundable deposit. The seller wanted us to match it to stay in the game.
We didn’t like the sound of non-refundable (or their price), even though we agreed that it would be unlikely that a judge would allow a home seller to double-dip – unless there were actual damages. If the buyer did end up cancelling, and the seller sold it again for the same price or higher, is the seller damaged? Not really, but we didn’t want to risk potentially having to battle it out in court to find out.
Here is a great article about a case involving a non-refundable deposit of $620,000 – and how the courts felt about the seller trying to keep it:
Compass has opened the regional headquarters at the multi-use One Paseo in Carmel Valley.
“The move for Compass to One Paseo was an easy decision,” said Shana Pereira, San Diego general manager of Compass.
“What One Paseo represents in holding onto the community feel of Carmel Valley, but bringing a futuristic and modern vibe, is synonymous to what Compass stands for — being a full-service real estate brokerage and fostering our real estate agents’ businesses, while embracing the modern advancement of technology with the goal of making their lives easier,” Pereira said. “We hope that the move of basing our regional HQ (headquarters) at One Paseo shows our commitment to San Diego and the people that live here.”
She said Compass expects to have more than 100 agents in the One Paseo offices.
Here’s my brief tour of One Paseo:
We had the all-Compass virtual meeting yesterday where is was noted that the brokerage has made record income for five months in a row, and was profitable in 3Q20. Another 300 support people have been hired in the last three months, with another 200-300 expected to be hired by the end of the year. No mention of the IPO yet, but it has to be in the works.
For the third straight month the level of builder confidence in the new home market set a record high. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) said the Housing Market Index (HMI) it co-sponsors with Wells Fargo soared 5 points in November to 90. This is the highest level in the 35-year history of the HMI which set records of 83 in September and 85 in October. These are the only times in its history that the Index surpassed the 80-point level and is triple its level in April when the pandemic caused it to plunge.
NAHB cautioned, however, that 69 percent of the survey responses were received before the results of the presidential election were called on Nov. 7. The election results and their future impacts on housing market conditions, will be more fully reflected in December’s HMI report.
Robert Dietz, NAHB chief economist, said that builder confidence has soared because historically low mortgage rates, favorable demographics, and an ongoing buyer preference for the suburbs have spurred demand and raised new home sales by nearly 17 percent year-over-year. He added, “Though builders continue to sign sales contracts at a solid pace, lot and material availability is holding back some building activity. Looking ahead to next year, regulatory policy risk will be a key concern given these supply-side constraints.
Regional scores are presented as three-month moving averages. The Northeast increased two points to 83, the Midwest jumped six points to 80, the South and West each rose four points to 86 and 94, respectively.
Thanksgiving will be looking different this year but rest assured, restaurants are still gearing up to make turkey day a delicious holiday. Choices include take-away meals, including one with a special chef collaboration, or options for dining on the premises with additional safety precautions. Advance reservations are required regardless of whether you’ll be ordering to eat at home or eating out so plan accordingly.
Anyone surprised to hear there are agents soliciting consumers based on their political beliefs?
At first, Stephanie Morris was nervous about leaving Modesto. She’d lived in the Central Valley her whole life, but her family couldn’t keep paying $850-a-month for her sons to share a living room while she, her husband and the baby slept in their apartment’s only bedroom.
The anxiety faded by the time her family pulled out in a U-Haul bound for Salt Lake City on a smoky September night. Morris, 31, had still never been to Utah — her husband liked it when he worked there as a truck driver — but she had discovered a whole world of people planning similar escapes online. They posted faraway landscapes on Pinterest, smiling family photos on Instagram and memes about leaving “Commiefornia” in Facebook groups like “Conservatives Leaving California.”
“I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not moving out of California to a third-world country,” Morris said. “I’m leaving a third-world country to join America.”
Unaffordable housing. High taxes. A Democratic stranglehold on state politics. The concerns driving transplants like Morris out of the country’s richest state during the COVID-19 era are not new. What is changing quickly is how disillusioned California residents are coming together by the tens of thousands on Facebook, YouTube and elsewhere online, fueling a cottage industry of real estate agents, mortgage lenders and political advocates stoking social division to compete for a piece of the much–discussed California Exodus.
Facebook groups like “Life After California” are full of stories about $4,000 U-Haul bills and home bidding wars in Texas, but it’s too early to tell if more people are leaving during the pandemic. People move for all kinds of reasons — a new job, to be near family, to buy their first house — and while many online moving groups target conservatives, a parallel migration of more liberal transplants has also scrambled the politics of some red states.
Early polls show that up to 40%of Bay Area tech workers will consider leaving if remote work continues. Recent tax proposals have alsotriggered familiar warnings about wealthy residents fleeing the state.
Even before COVID-19, California’s population growth had slowed considerably. Since 2015, the state has lost at least 100,000 more people than it gained each year from other U.S. states, including growing numbers of working class and Black residents. But California is still a top U.S. destination for people moving from other countries, plus affluent transplants from other states. From July 2018 to July 2019, California saw a net loss of 197,594 people to other states.
Scott Shepard has watched these forces collide from his new home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The California-bred realtor started relocation website ExitCalifornia.org and a namesake Facebook page early last year, when he saw a business opportunity in the endless stories of friends and neighbors moving out of state. Now, during the pandemic, the site is so busy he doesn’t have to pay for online ads.
“It’s starting to kind of take on a life of its own,” Shepard said. “I would be straight and say that it is primarily political. Then it really does come down to the cost and taxes.”
The anti-California Dream
Exit California is emblematic of a growing number of online relocation companies marketed heavily on social media. They target prospective transplants who skew white, right and over age 30, though renters post alongside members in the market for million-dollar houses. Between photos of tidy brick facades, crystal-clear pools and recommended moving truck routes, the Facebook pages revolve around ominous articles about Black Lives Matter protests, crime, immigration and, of late, pandemic shutdowns.
Prospective movers who click through to the website can pick a state — Arizona, Idaho, Tennessee, Texas — and see financial incentives to use selected realtors, mortgage lenders or other service providers. Beyond the mechanics of buying a house, the online groups are a platform for places to pitch fed-up Californians who don’t know where to start.
“There’s a fair percentage of them that don’t know where they wanna go,” said Scott Fuller, an Arizona transplant and real estate investor who started LeavingTheBayArea.com and LeavingSoCal.com three years ago. “They just know they want to go somewhere else.”
That’s not surprising to Bill Bishop, author of “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.” He’s studied how over the past several decades, neighborhoods across the country have become increasingly politically homogeneous. Where people choose to live has become “a stage,” he said, to flaunt their values as old anchors like a one-company career fade into a blur of unstable jobs, anxiety and dwindling time with family and friends.
“What they’re doing is selling a way of life that then corresponds to political choice,” Bishop said. “It’s kind of pathetic, actually, but what the hell?”
It’s not just real estate agents using social media to reach jaded Californians. Sometimes, the California Exodus content is bankrolled by people in high places.
Take the YouTube video “Fleeing California,” which has racked up 2 million views since it was posted in March. It starts with sweeping L.A. views of palm trees and Spanish-tile roofs, then fades to a grainy montage of sidewalk tent cities and a person being pushed in front of an oncoming truck. A moment later, in Texas, viewers see happy kids getting off a school bus and a golden retriever bounding down a jungle gym while Republican Sen. Ted Cruz talks in the background.
The video was made by PragerU, a conservative digital media nonprofit that produces other titles like “Make Men Masculine Again” and “Dangerous People Are Teaching Your Kids.” The California video was commissioned by a donor, producer Will Witt said: Texas ranching and oil scion Windi Grimes, a board director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and member of Trumpettes USA, a women’s group formed in Beverly Hills five years ago to boost President Trump as the country’s “savior.”
How many people are persuaded to pack up and move by similar videos, social media content or Joe Rogan’s recent podcasts on moving to Texas could help shuffle the country’s electoral map at a pivotal moment. Some of California’s last Republican strongholds, like Orange County, are seeing their residents decamp for other states — a net loss of nearly 25,000 people last year alone — along with notoriously liberal urban areas like L.A., which posted a net loss of more than 97,800 people.
The anti-California political spectacle playing out online has become a hobby for 30-year-old Texas country singer Charley Austin, who started the “Conservatives Leaving California” Facebook group last year. Some members post memes warning newcomers “Don’t California My Texas.” But Austin, who says he has campaigned for Trump, sees an opportunity to keep the state red as cities like Austin (“the San Francisco of Texas,” he said) go farther left.
“There’s nothing really we can do to stop people moving here,” Austin said. “The best thing you can do is help people that move here get acclimated to the state.”
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