Close It!™ House of the Week: Fabulous location, condo in Dupont Circle

This week we’re strolling over to Dupont Circle to check out a unique and appealing condo on the penthouse level of a boutique building. List price is $449,000.

This updated 1BR / 1BA unit features modern wood cabinets, high-end appliances and loads of closet space. The community is a hidden gem with a residential entrance tucked away on quiet Corcoran Street, NW. The new owner of this home will also enjoy sunny western exposures and a fabulous location that’s steps away from shopping, restaurants, culture and nightlife.

Assuming a homebuyer puts down 20 percent on a conventional loan, her cash to close number will be approximately $104,020.86. Monthly payments will then be around $2,296.99 including the HOA fee. For a complete picture of the cash to close, including the seller’s side of a transaction like this, try the Web version of Close It™ or download the free Close It™ iOS app.

What’s the status on B21-0417, aka The First-time Homebuyer Tax Benefit Amendment Act of 2015?

Legislation that would offer tax relief for District residents buying DC real estate is currently under committee review and awaiting scheduling for a mark-up, a spokeswoman for the Council's Committee on Finance and Revenue said.

Known as the First-time Homebuyer Tax Benefit Amendment Act of 2015 (B21-0417), the bill would create a new transfer tax rate of 0.725% for homebuyers who have never purchased a house, condo or share in a cooperative unit in the District. It would go into effect Sept. 30, 2016.

During mark-up, which is a vote in the Committee to send the bill before the whole Council, the Committee will have an opportunity to amend the bill (or not) and will also have a chance to review a financial impact statement to analyze costs and revenues of the proposed legislation.

If the bill passes mark-up, it will go to Mayor Muriel Bowser for a signature before going to Congress for review and passive approval. If it fails mark-up, the bill will get kicked to the Committee of the Whole and added to the agenda for the next legislative meeting.

Impact on low- to moderate-income residents a concern

The Council held a public hearing about the bill on February 10 of this year, which is when Settlement Observer picked up on the story. Then on February 24 a representative from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute testified before the Committee about concerns regarding a lack of income restrictions and the impact the tax cut would have on the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund.

“Rather than provide a new tax benefit for all first-time homebuyers, DCFPI recommends that policymakers review the city’s current deed tax assistance to low- and moderate-income homebuyers and make adjustments if they appear warranted,” said DCFPI Housing Policy Associate Claire Zippel in her testimony.

The bill was introduced last October by councilmembers Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), David Grosso (I-At Large) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large).

Grosso acknowledged concerns regarding the economic impact of lowering the transfer tax rate across the board and, in particular, how such a deduction would affect the Trust Fund.

“I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that the [Trust Fund] receives annual commitments so that it is not dependent on yearly fluctuations in recordation tax revenues,” Grosso said in a statement.

Mayor Bowser’s budget proposal last year included $100 million for the Trust Fund in fiscal year 2016, according to the website of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development. The Trust Fund is administered by the DC Department of Housing and Community Development with support from the Coalition.

The Trust Fund “enables non-profit housing providers, mission-driven for-profit developers and renters wishing to exercise their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase rights to improve and develop affordable housing in all eight wards,” according to the Coalition’s website.

Since its inception in 2002, The Trust Fund has produced or preserved more than 8,000 affordable homes with upward of 2,000 more in the pipeline, according to the Coalition’s website. In addition the Trust Fund has created an estimated 10,000 short-term and permanent jobs and has helped more than 18,000 DC residents.

The District's homebuying taxes significantly higher than Maryland or Virginia, about 50% higher on average

Current DC transfer and recordation taxes are on average 50% higher than neighboring Maryland and Virginia, Grosso said in a statement, which was the impetus for introducing a bill that would lower the tax burden for homebuyers purchasing for the first time in the District.

Transfer tax rates for District properties vary depending on the purchase price, from 1.1% for purchases $399,999 and below to 1.45% for purchases of $400,000 or more. The tax payment is traditionally paid by both the buyer and seller.

The DC tax abatement program offers relief for some, but homebuyers must satisfy income, purchase price and other restrictions and provide documentation to qualify.

Tax abatement waives the recordation tax obligation for low- to moderate-income first-time homebuyers while also crediting the seller’s portion of the tax to the homebuyer, resulting in a 2.2% swing in favor of the homebuyer. In addition, a qualifying homebuyer is exempt from paying property taxes for the first five years of ownership, but again some restrictions apply.

“If policymakers are concerned that the current deed tax assistance programs are inadequate, the District should look to modify existing programs while keeping a focus on low- and moderate-income families, rather than adopt another tax break that has no income targeting,” Zippel, the housing policy associate, said in her testimony.

We will continue to monitor the story, and readers can also follow along on the Council's website.

Close It!™ House of the Week: Sophisticated urban living in LeDroit Park

We're swanking things up for this week's installment and checking out a luxurious Victorian semi-detached home that's achieved centenarian status in LeDroit Park. This home went on the market this week for $1.249 million.

This house offers two decks that overlook a private yard that is large enough for entertaining. In addition to 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, this house also has an English basement that can be rented out to supplement the mortgage payment.

Assuming a homebuyer puts down 20 percent on a conventional loan, her cash to close number will be approximately $284,417.34. Monthly payments will then be around $5,461.90 per month. For a complete picture of the cash to close, including the seller's side of the transaction, try the Web version of Close It™ or download the free Close It™ iOS app.

FIRPTA withholding to increase next week

If you work with foreign nationals in your real estate business, be advised that the FIRPTA withholding rate on home sales exceeding $1 million will increase to 15% on February 16.

Also known as the Foreign Investment in Real Estate Property Tax Act, FIRPTA requires foreign persons to pay U.S. income tax on gains made from the sale of real estate in the United States. Home sales that do not exceed the $1 million dollar threshold are subject to a 10% withholding.

There is an exception to the FIRPTA withholding rule. If the sales price is below $300,000 AND the new buyer intends to use the property as a principal residence, then the home sale is not subject to FIRPTA withholding.

The duty of collecting the FIRPTA tax, owed by a foreign national seller, is imposed on the U.S. national buyer The amount that must be withheld can be lowered pursuant to the seller obtaining a withholding certificate from the IRS prior to closing.

In most instances, the settlement agent will actually collect the withholding from the foreign national seller and remit the funds to the IRS on behalf of the buyer. However, the buyer is held legally responsible for the proper withholding and, under the law, the buyer could be liable for any additional withholding tax, penalty and interest if ever challenged by the IRS.

To help you determine when FIRPTA withholding is required, and the rate to withhold, we created a simple flowchart that contains four easy questions. You can view it on our website and download a copy to share with your clients and colleagues.

FIRPTA withholding rate to increase to 15% for sales exceeding $1 million

FIRPTA withholding rate to increase to 15% for sales exceeding $1 million

Starting February 16, 2016, there will be changes to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act ("FIRPTA").

FIRPTA is a tax law passed in 1981 that requires foreign persons to pay U.S. income tax on the gains they make from selling U.S. real estate.

The duty is on the U.S. national buyer to deduct and withhold a portion of the sales price and report the sale to the IRS. Buyers can withhold less than the statutory amount if they obtain a determination of the specific amount of tax owed by the foreign national using IRS Form 8288-B.

In most cases, the settlement agent is the party that actually remits the funds to the IRS, but the buyer is held legally responsible. Additionally, until the tax is paid in full, the government obtains a security interest in the real property.

The 10% rate will still apply for those transactions in which the property is to be used by the Buyer as a residence, provided the sales price does not exceed $1,000,000, and the existing $300,000 “exemption” remains unaffected. So here are the new guidelines:

  • If the sales price is $300,000 or less, AND the property will be used by the Buyer as a residence (as provided for in the current regulations), no sums need be withheld or remitted.
  • If the sales price exceeds $300,000 but does not exceed $1,000,000, AND the property will be used by the Buyer as a residence, then the withholding rate is 10% on the full amount realized.
  • If the sales price exceeds $1,000,000, then the withholding rate is 15% on the entire amount, regardless of use by the Transferee.
  • Under the law, the Buyer is the withholding agent and is responsible for withholding and remitting the proper amount to the IRS and could be liable for any additional withholding tax, penalty, and interest if their intent is ever challenged by the IRS.

    The current FAR/BAR contract form contains language specifically referring to a 10% withholding. An amendment to the contract for closings scheduled on or after February 16, 2016 should be added to change the potential rate of withholding to 15%.

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