How Will The New Tax Bill Affect Homeowners?

The Affects Of The New Tax Bill

Unless you have stayed offline and haven’t spoken to a single person over the last month, then you know about the proposed tax bills that we are all concerned about. Many have started calling their congresspersons to encourage a vote against the proposed bills out of fear of losing key deductions on their tax returns. We encourage folks to speak their minds to their congresspersons, regardless of how you feel about it. What we want to do today is to simplify the language and explain how these changes affect you so that you can make a more informed decision.


When Will It Go Into Effect?

If passed, the tax bill will go into effect on January 1 of next year. That’s just a couple of weeks away! Despite it being so close, you won’t feel the affect until April of 2019 when you are filing your tax returns. Your tax returns that you file in the coming April will reflect current tax deductions. Fortunately, it gives us a bit of time to dive into whether or not this bill will be good for American citizens. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that we can change it soon enough. The House is supposed to vote on the bill the week of Dec 18th but it is not clear if that will truly be when they vote. It’s been rumored that Dec 22nd is the deadline for the vote. We suspect they will put it off as long as possible as they listen to constituents who have been hitting the telephone and fax lines in droves.


What Happens To The Homeowner?

Since nothing has been passed by the House yet, this is where things can get a bit muddy. Under the House bill you would be capped on new mortgages up to $500,000 and the deduction can only be on your primary residence. You would also still be able to deduct state and local property taxes but you would be capped at $10,000. Under the Senate bill, the mortgage deduction would still be in place and capped at one million but the equity debt (re-financing not related to home repairs) would not be deductible and all property tax deductions would be eliminated. The argument is that with a higher mortgage deduction, the property tax deductions would not be needed.

So there are a few issues with the above. If you can only take deductions on your primary residence, this will hurt those individuals who have more than one home (such as a vacation home). A cap on property taxes at $10,000 can certainly be a struggle for people who live in a high percentage area that have to pay multiple property taxes on the primary residence. The Senate bill isn’t much better with a removal of the equity debt deduction. Their removal of property tax deductions sound good on paper, it has a profound effect on the real estate market.

If you are planning on selling your home, both bills will also effect your ability to exclude the capital gains. Currently, you can exclude $250,000 of capital gains provided that you have lived in the home two out of the past five years. Under House and Senate bills, you will only be able to exclude the same amount if you have lived in the home one year out of the past eight years. This is a big hit to folks who may find a real need to move before eight years has passed and not get hit with taxes on capital gains.


What Happens To The Market?

Many people associate their capital gains exclusions when selling and their property and mortgage deductions when buying. With the possible passing of one of these new bills, people are going to be hesitant to buy or sell. The National Association of Realtors is predicting that if either bill goes into effect, housing prices will drop. Sounds good if you are buying, right? Sure, until you see that you have less deductions on your tax return. Don’t forget that some people will be selling a home while buying and if they don’t fall into that eight year time span, they could find themselves with a very large capital gain tax.

We hope that we see improvements in the discussion of any changes to the tax bill, or come to the conclusion that there should not be any changes at all. When you are looking to buying or selling your home, freely speak with your realtor and tax accountant about how to handle potential changes so that you can be most prepared!


Finding The Right Mortgage In Asheville

While many people look to their home bank as the source of home financing, there are other options that could save you money in the long run. Before settling with any bank, comparison shopping is the best thing that any future homeowner could do. If you are looking to settle in Asheville, NC, there are a few local bank options as well as some online options you can look into. Here are a few suggestions of our own to research before you buy your home.


Asheville Savings Bank

Asheville Savings Bank was recently purchased and is now known as First Bank. Despite the change, their mortgage experts have been processing loans for 150 years and are very knowledgeable at getting you the best loan possible. They have a variety of options including:

  • Long term fixed rate home loans
  • Adjustable rate home loans with a variety of terms
  • Construction loans
  • First time buyer home loans
  • Government sponsored home loans like USDA/FHA/VA
  • Reverse mortgages

At the time of this article, rates varied from 2.875% to 3.875& and APR ranged from 3.061% to 4.096%.  First Bank now offers online applications as well so anyone across the country could easily apply without having to be present for the initial start of the loan process.


Credit Unions

If you have already relocated to the area and are looking to buy a home, consider joining one of our many credit unions. Asheville loves locally grown businesses and the same is true when it comes to our banking. A few of our credit unions are:

  • State Employees Credit Union
  • Mountain Credit Union
  • Telco Credit Union
  • Self-Help Credit Union

Some of the requirements for joining a credit union will vary. State Employees is open to state employees, their own employees, and certain companies contracted with them. Family members can also join. Other credit unions, such as Mountain Credit, only require that you work in the area.

Why a credit union? Well they function like banks but are not-for-profit. This means that any home loan they offer, they keep in house rather than sell it to a 3rd party, a trend popular amongst traditional mortgage lenders. This also means lower fees since they are not in the business to make a profit. Additionally, they can offer loans to those who have slightly higher debt-to-income ratios and trickier sources of income.

Are the rates lower? Not always! While origination fees tend to be lower, most rates and APR’s are comparable to your traditional bank. It’s a great option to look into if your traditional bank has already denied you because of your debt-to-income or because of the sources of your income.


Online Mortgage Lenders

Have you noticed the commercials for Quicken Loans as of lately? Don’t look away, check them out. They have competitive rates that currently start at 3.255% and it is almost as quick as it appears on their ads. The greatest thing about Quicken is that you can truly apply through the app at any given time. However, we recommend checking out their website and looking at their options and mortgage calculator to be sure that it will fit your budget. One of the most attractive options they offer is the Jumbo Loan. If you need a mortgage that is over the traditional loan limit ($424,100), this is for you. Are you a veteran? They also have VA Jumbo Loans that feature a no money down option for those that qualify. A word to the wise: some loans require a minimum credit score of 700 so inquire carefully and check your credit score before you apply.


Between local banks and credit unions, your traditional bank, and online options, you are sure to find the right mortgage and lender to fit your budget and help you buy the house of your dreams. Taking the time to comparison shop will truly empower you to making the best decision possible.

If you have questions, contact Hi-Alta today to speak with an experienced Asheville realtor.

What a Real Estate Agent or Broker Can Do For You

When it comes to buying a home, you learn a lot of lingo. Same can be said for who you choose to help you make your big purchase. There are real estate agents or salespersons and there are real estate brokers. What is the difference? Well let’s just dive in and learn what each of their roles are and what they do for you!


Real Estate Agent Vs Real Estate Broker

A real estate agent acts as a liaison between the seller of a home and the buyer. They have the access to homes that are on the market and can take on the task of making negotiations on your behalf. They understand the tricky business of contracts and understand the legalities of a home purchase. In North Carolina, real estate agents must follow the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • US Citizen
  • Complete 75 hours of state approved courses in a live classroom
  • Pass the state licensing exam with at least a score of 75%

North Carolina considers their real estate agents as real estate brokers however, they are not a broker-in-charge and cannot work independently as a broker. They must report to a broker-in-charge.

A real estate broker-in-charge typically does all the same as a real estate agent but they can establish escrow accounts and manages the earnest money deposit. A broker-in-charge typically will work on their own or open their own office and hire brokers underneath them. In order to become a broker-in-charge there is post licensing education required within 3 years of your initial licensing as a real estate agent. There are 3 90-minute classes to complete and a form of intention that must be filed in order to be granted the new status.


Really, What Do They Do For Me?

With all the homes on the market, and several folks trying to sell their home without an agent, why should you truly hire someone to help you buy your home? Let’s first consider the legal ramifications of home buying. There are contracts and negotiations. You will need an inspection done on the home. All of these things are not easy to navigate and the average person has no idea how to navigate them. Real estate agents have the education and experience to know exactly how things should be worded in a contract, how to negotiate effectively, who to contact for inspections, and lead you into the foray without fear.

Your agent is also a buffer. Once you lay out what kind of home you want and the ideal location, they are going to do the searching for you to find the best prospects. Try doing that on your own and you could find yourself spending hours looking at all the wrong properties. What happens if you aren’t 100% sure what you want but you know what your budget is? That agent can at least inform you of what is in your price range and help you navigate your likes and dislikes to whittle away at the options.

Your agent also has the connections. The longer they have been in the business, the more connections they have. Not only to fantastic properties but to reputable contractors, inspectors, and home repair businesses in the area. They can also tell you about the best things the neighborhood has to offer and highlight some of the best things to do in town. That’s an added perk when you are moving into a completely new area or state.

Of course, we don’t recommend you buy or sell your house on your own. Let us help you find the home of your dreams. Real estate agents work hard to make the process as painless as possible so that you can truly be excited for your new home. Isn’t that the point of buying or selling a home?


Should You Rent or Buy in Asheville?

People are flocking to Asheville and it’s no surprise! The gorgeous mountains offering plenty of outdoor excursions of all types, eclectic lifestyle, and a slew of fabulous restaurants and breweries make it easy to want to be here. When you factor in the low cost of housing, and overall lower cost of living, Asheville becomes even more attractive. Before you jump into a moving van, let’s consider whether you should buy or rent.


Rent Is a Fantastic Intro

Renting a place is simply a wonderful way to settle into the area and immerse yourself into Asheville culture. Each part of the town has its own sense of self. Downtown is typically where the tourists hit for a fun time and is chock full of boutiques and restaurants. Over on the westside, you will find lots of events and plenty of locally run businesses. The southside has become the place for young and upcoming people who want to experience a bit of Asheville luxury. The North and East sides have traditionally appealed to families. Renting allows you to choose an area and get to know it before committing to a home purchase. A two-bedroom apartment will easily run you $1200 per month in Asheville so be sure you are not eating into any money you are saving for a home purchase. Availability is impressive considering that apartment complexes are opening at breakneck speed.

If you aren’t in the position to purchase a home at the moment, renting is also a great way to make the move and save up for your own home in the future. Be sure that your income will allow for you to grow into the position of purchasing a home in the future. While Asheville has an abundance of employment, most of those jobs are in the tourism sector and do not pay well enough for a single person to save for a home. However, Asheville is a great place to start your own business. People here love to support the small and local businesses! Due to the high cost of renting, it’s wise to make renting a temporary endeavor when you move to the area.


Home is Where Your Heart Is

The ultimate recommendation is to purchase your home now before prices rise. Currently the median cost of a home in Asheville is approximately $250,000- $350,000 for a 2-bedroom home, depending on the area you are looking to move into. Those prices are rising making buying now more attractive than waiting it out. However, Asheville is also growing with plenty of new homes being built by developers to answer to demand. With a growing housing market, it gives you a little more buying power in negotiations over property.

It’s also important to consider property taxes into your housing budget. All Asheville City residents pay the city property tax and property taxes to Buncombe County. It is one of the issues some lifelong residents have had with the taxation, however, it’s considerably less expensive than other parts of the country.  Our homeowner’s insurance is typically lower as well. We don’t experience hurricanes, tropical storms, or tornadoes in the area which lend to a lower premium. Some areas near rivers and creek may be prone to be flooding and could raise your rates but even that is lower in cost in comparison to some of the bigger storms and weather epidemics seen in various portions of the country.

Given that current rental fees are comparable to mortgages in the Asheville area, it would just make sense to purchase and pay the same for a mortgage rather than lose the equity by renting. According to the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, the cost of living in Asheville is below the national average. Their cost of living calculator is especially helpful for you to use to consider how a move to Asheville can affect your finances.

Call now to an experienced Asheville real estate expert at Hi Alta Real estate today.




Wintertime Tips for Energy Efficiency

winter house

Following our first serious blast of winter weather, now is as good a time as any to go over some tips for keeping our homes as energy-efficient as possible and saving money on monthly utility bills. Especially for those of us who live in older houses, constructed long before the advent of the “green building” revolution, it’s important to know what we can do to improve efficiency at minimal cost.

The Building Envelope


Many of you, especially those in the construction world, are already familiar with the concept of a building envelope. The idea is pretty simple: to maintain the greatest efficiency, we want our homes to remain sealed up as tightly as possible. According to data from the US Department of Energy, taking steps to reduce air leaks could help us save as much as 30% on our heating bills. Although we may have little control over those pesky family members who like to stand in the doorway – with the door wide open – to chat with the neighbors, there are certain steps we can take to address persistent air leaks in our homes:

  • Install Weather Stripping Around Doors & Windows
    • Any home-improvement store should have a wide variety to choose from, and most kinds are really easy to install.
    • Even a rolled-up towel stuffed against a drafty door is better than nothing. Or, if you’re feeling especially crafty, you can make your own draft snake.
  • Use Caulk or Insulating Foam to Seal Cracks
  • Put Plastic on the Windows

window plasticind_qa_windowfilm_0814_web1window plastic hairdryer


  • Add Insulation in Attics & Basements
    • Don’t want to deal with the mess? Hire a contractor (or an unemployed family member).
  • Install Storm Windows & Storm Doors

HVAC System & Water Heater

Addressing issues with the building envelope will go a long way towards improving efficiency, but some minor adjustments to the way you heat air & water in your home can make a big difference as well:

  • Turn Down the Thermostat
    • Or, for added convenience, consider investing in a programmable thermostat. This can really help you reduce heating costs during times when you’re away from home or asleep.
    • Some scientists even say that sleeping in cooler temperatures is better for your health.
  • Clean or Replace Air Filtersclean-vs-dirty-air-filters
    • Whether your air filters are located in the heating unit itself or in a return air vent inside your home, it’s extremely important to clean or replace these filters regularly.
    • Consult the owner’s manual that came with your HVAC system if you have any questions, or consult a licensed professional.
  • Inspect Ductwork
  • Insulate Hot Water Pipesinsulate pipes
    • Not only will this save you money on heating water, but you’ll reduce the risk of pipes freezing as well.
    • Visit your local home improvement store and ask for the best product to fit your particular situation.
  • Adjust Water Heater
    • Similar to the suggestion above about HVAC, there’s no reason to keep a tank full of water unnecessarily hot around the clock. If you have a water heater that uses a tank, try turning the thermostat down incrementally to see how low you can keep the temp without it negatively impacting your household needs.
    • If you need to replace an old water heater, consider switching to a tankless model, which is often much more efficient.

Thinking Big Picture

  • Get a Home Energy Audit
    • If you’re unsure how efficient your home may (or may not) be, you can have a licensed professional perform a home energy audit. This can provide you with valuable information about where your home may be losing efficiency and suggest the appropriate remedies.
  • Take Advantage of Tax Credits
    • If you need to replace older appliances or if you have a little extra money to spend on other home improvements, there may be valuable tax incentives you could take advantage of. There are quite a few federal tax credits as well as some that are specific to North Carolina.

Other Suggestions

  • Consider Upgrading Lightbulbs to High-Efficiency LEDs
    • LED lighting technology is getting better and better all the time. LED bulbs tend to be an expensive purchase on the front end, but the energy savings over the long haul will more than make up for the initial expense.
    • According to a number of reports, though, not all LEDs are created equal. So consider buying high-quality bulbs if you’re going to make the investment. Here’s one example of a site reviewing different products.
  • Think Smart About Ways to Save
    • If you’ve got several loads of laundry to do, try to keep the dryer running until you’re done with it. Once that thing has gotten hot, it’s a lot more efficient to keep it running than to let it cool down between loads.
    • Keep south-facing windows uncovered during the day to take advantage of passive solar heat.
    • Come up with your own creative techniques (and share them).

Alan Wray is a broker at Hi-Alta Real Estate and lives with his family in West Asheville.

You can contact him at


Why Asheville?

So you’re looking to move to Asheville and hoping to find real estate that is just right for you. Whether you’re coming here to start a business, start a family or just start anew, Asheville is known for its real estate for a reason. From breath-taking mountains views to a bustling culturally diverse downtown, Asheville is home to more than 87,000 people who appreciate all this mountain metro has to offer.

Our team of realtors at Hi-Alta Real Estate are here to help you with your real estate search. We have commercial listings, lots and land, and a variety of homes to show. If we didn’t list it, no worries because our team of realtors are available to show you any property that you may be interested in visiting.

Just give us a call today or email us at Whether you’re looking for new construction, a traditional home in a long-standing community, the perfect mountain getaway or an investment property, you can count on Hi-Alta Real Estate.