“Agents,” “Brokers,” and “Realtors” – What’s the Difference?

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, having an experienced real estate professional to help you throughout the process is extremely helpful. But when you enlist their services, you may come across a professional who advertises themselves as a real estate “agent,” “broker,” or “Realtor.”

The question is, what’s the difference between each one of these professionals? And why do their titles matter?

State governments regulate the real estate profession, and each title has slightly different requirements when it comes to acquiring a license. But do their distinctions really matter when it comes time for you to buy or sell?


An “agent” is any real estate professional who has earned their real estate license. Agents are also referred to as “salespersons,” though these terms can be used interchangeably to mean the same thing. In California – as in any other state in the US – anyone who wishes to become a licensed real estate agent or salesperson must take certain courses and pass their respective exams. More specifically, agents in the Golden State have to go through 135 hours of real estate training before being eligible to write their exam.

In order to work as an agent, these professionals must be associated with a real estate broker or brokerage.


Real estate agents can become brokers by taking specific courses to become a broker and by passing their respective exams. Unlike real estate agents, brokers are able to work on their own, since they themselves are brokers. But they must have a certain amount of experience working as a real state agent first before becoming brokers.

In order to become a real estate broker in California, agents have to undergo 360 hours of real estate training and work as a real estate agent for two years prior to taking the exam. However, agents who have a four-year degree in real estate may be eligible to waive this two-year experience requirement. 

Brokers may choose to open up a brokerage and hire a team of real estate agents to work with them. In this case, brokers take a cut of the commissions earned by their agents on every real estate transaction that is successfully completed.

Further, there are real estate “associate brokers,” who have taken additional courses to earn a broker’s license, but may choose to work under a broker rather than on their own.


Any real estate professional who’s a part of the National Association of REALTORS® can be considered a Realtor. In order to be an upstanding member of this organization, real estate agents must adhere to a specific code of ethics. There is also an annual fee that is required by each member to maintain membership with this association. For the remainder of 2018, that yearly membership fee is $120, and by 2019, that fee will increase to $150.

Does the Title of the Professional Matter?

At the end of the day, the decision to work with someone who calls themselves an agent, broker, or Realtor doesn’t really matter to buyers and sellers. The work that needs to be done to successfully buy and sell real estate will remain the same. Working with a licensed professional means that you’ll have the benefit of having a trained expert to guide you through the process.

If you work with an agent, that professional will report to a broker, who will be responsible for handling escrow and dealing with any monies involved. If you work directly with a broker, all of this will be handled by the broker themselves.

In either case, it’s ultimately the broker or brokerage that holds all responsibility for either the services provided by the agent or the broker themselves. If any issues arise, they will need to be dealt with through the brokerage.

The Bottom Line

Agents, brokers, and Realtors may have slight differences in their educational requirements, but the end result that they all strive to achieve is the same: to provide expert guidance and service to every client they take under their wing. Whether you’re buying or selling, having one of these professionals in your corner will give you the best odds of experiencing a successful transaction.

INFOGRAPHIC: Habits of a Successful Seller

Home Features That May Not Add Any Value to Your Home

Certain features in a home have stood the test of time in terms of adding value to a property, while others often don’t bring in the type of ROI that sellers usually look for when they sell.

As a seller, you’ll obviously want to prep your home accordingly in order to attract the masses of buyers out there. That’s precisely why many sellers employ professional home stagers. But in many cases, taking on certain home improvement or upgrading projects might be warranted to bring your home up to par.

That said, you’ll need to be very careful about the type of projects that you undertake.  More specifically, the following projects might not add as much value as you’d like and probably won’t allow you to fully recoup what you spend on them.

Upgraded Utilities

When it comes to adding perceived value to a home, features that buyers can actually see are what really matters. While things like the electrical panel and wiring or new plumbing pipes are certainly nice to have, buyers might not always associate the importance of such upgrades with offering more money.

Even though you may have spent thousands of dollars upgrading the wiring and pipes, you may not see all that money recouped in the offers that buyers submit.

Of course, making the necessary improvements in these areas isn’t necessarily a bad idea, and it may sometimes be needed in order to actually sell your home. That said, don’t assume that such upgrades will allow you to hike up your asking price.

New HVAC System

Like the utilities in your home, the HVAC system isn’t something that buyers will notice. Of course, if the A/C is completely dead and the inside of the home is boiling hot, buyers will notice. In this case, you’ll have little choice but to repair or replace the unit before you sell.

But simply upgrading your entire HVAC system isn’t necessarily going to allow you to recoup all the money you may spend on it when it comes time to sell. Buyers are not likely to pay more for it.

Adding a Swimming Pool

Many buyers in California expect a home to have a pool when they buy. But if your home doesn’t already have one, adding one now isn’t exactly going to bring you a high ROI. In fact, you could lose money by taking on such a huge project.

Installing a pool is a very expensive job. You’ll likely spend no less than $30,000 on a pool installation, but you probably won’t be able to tack on that extra $30,000 to the asking price.

Buyers who really want a pool can always install one themselves and design it in the way they like. If other homes on the block have a pool, you’ll need to make the appropriate price adjustment to your asking price, which might be the better way to go than installing (and paying) for a pool installation that will likely cost much more than you’ll get back for it.

Solar Panel Installation

An increasing number of buyers – especially those in the millennial demographic – appreciate “green” homes that are easy on the environment – and their pocketbooks. And solar paneling is certainly a great feature for a home to have that can save energy and money.

But the installation cost is extremely high. People who install solar panels usually do so if they are planning to remain in their homes for the long haul, as they won’t see any recouping for years to come. Installing them today will definitely not add the kind of value that you’ll be able to get back when you sell.

New Bathrooms

Bathrooms might be small in size, but they play a key role in the value of a home. A home with three updated bathrooms is obviously better than a home with one old and outdated bathroom, for example. But while you might want to spruce up a tired-looking space, installing a brand new bathroom might not bring you back what you spend on such a project.

In fact, you can expect to get back no more than half of what you spend on a new bathroom installation. If anything, consider updating the one(s) you already have, within reason.

Landscaping Overkill

Your home’s landscaping plays a key role in curb appeal, which is crucial when selling your home. Your lawn should be mowed and free of weeds, your flowers should be healthy, and your bushes should be trimmed. But going overboard with your landscaping will risk losing money when you finally sell.

Not only will you probably spend a lot more on your landscaping that you’ll get back, but you might even turn some buyers off who prefer to personalize their landscaping without so many extensive intricacies.

High-End Features

When prepping your home for the market, it’s important that you stay in line with what the majority of homes in the area offer. A home that’s been overloaded with high-end upgrades on a block that has more modest homes might not make sense. You’ll probably do nothing more than make your home stand out like a sore thumb.

You may have spent some good money on ornate lighting, extensive crown molding, decorative wainscoting, innovative kitchen appliances, or Italian marble countertops, but are buyers in the area willing to spend the big bucks to have all that? These types of features are super expensive, and it’s unlikely that you’ll find a buyer who would be willing to pay as much for your home as what you spent on it.

The Bottom Line

Upgrading your home is certainly a good thing when prepping your home for the market. But the types of projects you take on and the amount of money you spend on them should be carefully considered. While you want your home to impress buyers, you also want to make sure the ROI is worth it. Speak with your real estate agent to find out which projects make more financial sense, and which ones you should steer clear of.

5 Things Buyers Should Know About Purchasing a Vacation Home

The thought of having a place of your own to retreat to whenever you feel like getting away sounds nice, doesn’t it? That’s the beauty of having your own vacation home.

Whether you can access it quickly by car or have to book a flight to get there, having your own vacation home is a great option if there’s a particular spot you frequent on a regular basis.

But before you decide to purchase a vacation home, there are some important considerations that should be made. Just like buying any other piece of real estate, a vacation home purchase is one that should not be made in haste. Instead, there are several factors to consider to make sure you’re making a sound decision.

1. Is the Location Suitable For the Long Haul?

You’ve obviously picked your location because you love to spend time there. But while the location might suit your needs today, will it be suitable for years down the road? What about when you retire?

Just thinking about the short-term can be a risky position to put yourself in. What you want to do is choose a place that you’ll love and that will offer you what you need and want for many years to come.

Planning for long-term enjoyment of your vacation home can mean different things, such as considering whether or not a larger place might be needed to accommodate for a growing family, or picking an area that has lots of recreational opportunities to appeal to your changing interests.

2. How Will You Get There?

Transportation is obviously an important consideration to make before you buy a second home. Will you be able to get there by driving? Or will you have book a flight to get there?

If money is no problem, then there’s nothing really wrong with buying something so far away. But if the thought of having to pay for airfare every time you want to access your vacation home sounds like far too much money than you care to spend, consider something that can be accessed via car within a relatively short period of time.

Close proximity to your vacation property is particularly important if you plan to visit often. This can be even more convenient if you’re the type to want to skip town for the weekend at the last minute.

3. Are You Going to Rent it Out For a Portion of the Year?

If you plan to spend a lot of time in your vacation home, then renting it out might not be a viable option. In this case, you’ll probably want to have it available to you at all times.

But are you going to depend on rental income to help pay the mortgage on your vacation home? If you’re stretching yourself thin by taking out another mortgage to buy another property, you may want to consider renting out the place during certain times of the year.

This option makes sense if you don’t plan to be there for long stretches of time. There’s little sense in leaving the place vacant for months at a time when it could be collecting rent for you.

But you’ll also have to consider whether or not you like the idea of having complete strangers taking up residence in your home, especially if you leave a lot of your belongings there even when you’re not around.

4. How Much Can You Afford to Spend?

It seems silly to even add this question on this list, but it’s one of the most important ones you’ll need to ask yourself. Can you afford to buy another property? Before you even think about searching for a vacation home, you’ll need to take a hard look at your finances first.

There are plenty of things that go into your ability to afford such a purchase. On top of the actual mortgage that you’ll be paying, there are also a number of other expenses that you’ll have to pay for, including the following:

  • Furniture
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Maintenance Fees
  • HOA fees (if applicable)
  • Repairs

Make sure you make an accurate calculation of all the fees associated with buying and operating a vacation home before you take the plunge.

5. Where Will the Property’s Value be in the Future?

It’s always wise to consider the resale value of real estate, even before you buy it. While you might have plans to hang on to the home for the long haul, you never know how things might change in the future. It’s possible that you may decide to sell it sooner than you may have initially thought.

If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure that the property you buy will be able to maintain its value over time. Considering how much you’re spending on a home, you want to know that it will at least hold on to its value and even appreciate in value going forward.

Sure, property values tend to fluctuate, but you want the trend to be in an upwards direction, and not the other way around. Find out as much as you can about any plans for development in the future that could affect the value of your home.

Keep your eye out for frequent For Sale signs. Check out local businesses and pay attention to how many may be boarded up or transient. These can all give you some sort of idea of where the neighborhood is headed over time.

You’ll also want to consider the actual home itself. Is it a quirky type of home that’s only attractive to a very specific type of buyer? Or does it have a layout and features that are easily marketable? You don’t want to buy anything that may be a tough sell when or if the time comes.

The Bottom Line

Buying a vacation home can provide you and your family with a convenient place to spend time when you’ve got a little time off. Instead of having to book hotels, you’ve got a place already available. There’s no need to haul too many belongings if you leave your own clothes and toiletries there, and you’ll have all the conveniences of home that a regular hotel room simply cannot offer.

But considering the magnitude of such a purchase, you’ll want to do your due diligence before you sign on the dotted line. Team up with a seasoned real estate professional who can help guide you to making the right purchasing decision that’s best suited for you.

Multi-Family Homes: The Pros and Cons

There are plenty of ways to invest in real estate, and multi-family housing is a popular one.

Multi-family properties are basically homes that are incorporated into one larger complex, whether it’s an apartment building, duplex, triplex, or multiplex. Essentially, the homes are structured in such as way that they are able to house multiple families in the same complexes, though all separate from one another.

Multi-family housing investments can be a great option for many investors instead of just investing in a single family home, but perhaps not so much for others. There are obviously certain advantages to investing in this type of real estate, but there are also a few drawbacks as well. That’s why it’s so important for investors to weigh both the pros and cons of such investments before jumping in with both feet.

Pros of Multi-Family Housing Investments

Let’s get into the advantages of investing in a multi-family complex:

Bigger profits. Obviously, the more families living in the complex that you purchase, the bigger your cash flow is going to be. Collecting rent from several units as opposed to just one will bring in a larger flow of income. As long as the rent is paid on time and the amount you charge more than covers the operating costs, you stand to make a bigger profit with a multi-family complex as opposed to owing just one unit or a single-family home.

Less risk with tenants. If you only have one unit, the risk of vacancy is much higher. You’re depending on that one unit for rent collection. But with a multi-family complex, you’ll have a number of units on your hands. Even if you’ve got one vacancy, it doesn’t represent the entire makeup of your vacancy rate.

Even if one unit becomes vacant, there are still other units that are filled and bringing in rent money every month. And if one of the tenants happens to neglect to pay rent on time or is difficult to deal with, a multiple tenant situation probably won’t result in all tenants being a problem all at the same time. In this way, you won’t be putting all your eggs in one basket.

The value will hold over time. Multi-family properties are usually valued according to how much potential they have to generate a positive income every month. They’re typically purchased exclusively by investors, and if these properties are able to prove a decent income through rent, they’re usually able to maintain their value over the long haul.

Mortgage are easier to get. If you’re planning to buy a number of investment properties, you might find it easier to get one mortgage for a multi-family property as opposed to buying many single-family properties. Not only will it be easier to get approved, but it will also be easier to manage one loan under one lender instead of many if you were to purchase several separate properties.

Cons of Multi-Family Housing Investments

As great as multi-family property investing may be, it’s not without its drawbacks.

Cost. You can always buy just one single family home to rent out and collect income on. This will still bring in some level of income while costing you far less to purchase. Obviously, buying a multi-family complex is a much larger financial transaction than a single-family property.

Many first-time investors might choose to start smaller and get in the market with a single-family property at first before jumping into a multi-family property investment simply because of the high price tag attached to such an investment.

More tenants equal more hassles. A single-family home investment means you’ll only be dealing with one family With a multi-family complex, on the other hand, you’ll be dealing with multiple tenants. While this can mean your profits will be higher, it also means dealing with several tenants at once which can be more time-consuming and more of a hassle.

Further, if there’s an issue with the structure, you’ll have to deal with complaints from all tenants at once, which can translate in more headaches and higher maintenance/repair costs. That said, you can always hire a property manager to tackle these issues for you. While there is a cost associated with this type of assistance, it is typically tax-deductible.

Fewer properties available. It’s a lot easier to find a decent single family home to buy for investment purposes than it is to find a multi-family complex that checks off all the boxes. Multi-family homes are not as readily available to as single-family homes for a number of reasons, including less demand and higher purchase prices. As such, it can be more of a challenge to find the perfect property at the right price that meets all of your needs and wants.

The Bottom Line

Investing in any type of real estate can prove to be highly profitable and provide long-term wealth when done right. And multi-family properties provide investors with just one of many ways to realize a profit and bring in a handsome income every month. But there are always considerations to make before choosing this type of investment over others. Work with an experienced real estate professional to help you navigate the realm of multi-family home investments to make sure this is the right path for you.

What Can You Learn From Visiting Open Houses?

While not necessarily a requirement when you’re on the hunt for a new home, attending open houses can give you the opportunity to scope out properties that are available on the market. Many buyers have ended up finding their dream home by attending an open house.

Open houses provide buyers with a great opportunity to do some research on what’s out there. Every open house you visit will leave you walking away with your own opinions and thoughts on the features of the home that you may like versus those that didn’t exactly tickle your fancy.

It’s important for buyers to use open houses to their advantage, because there are a few things you can learn from attending them, including the following.

How Much You Can Afford

Many buyers – especially first-timers – are completely unaware of how much homes actually cost. They may have a picture in their minds of the type of home they may want, but they may not be aware of the amount of money that may be required to purchase such a property. Unfortunately, many buyers end up finding out the hard way that they’re not able to afford the type of home that they had in their minds and wind up disappointed.

Visiting open houses gives buyers a chance to find out what they are realistically able to buy within their price range. While it’s always easy to peruse listings online to see how much they go for, browsing online is just the first step in the house hunting process. It’s not uncommon for homes to look much different in person than what they appear to be like on the internet.

What the Competition is Like

You’re likely not the only buyer out there looking for a home to purchase. There are probably many other buyers just like you who are looking for a new home. And depending on the type of market you’re in, you may find more competition than you may have initially anticipated.

By attending an open house, you’ll be able to gauge what the competition is currently like. The type of traffic that sellers are able to attract can give buyers some measurement of whether or not an offer will have to be put in quickly, whether or not a bidding war is likely, and if the listing price is accurate.

The number of people attending the open house can be an indication of how quickly you may want to put in an offer on it if that’s what your goal is. If the traffic is heavy and there’s a buzz about offers, you might not have much time to play with. But if there are only a few people checking out the home, time might be on your side.

What the Neighborhood is Like

If you’re not familiar with the area that listed homes are located in, attending open houses will give you the chance to get a feel for them. After all, you’re not just buying the actual structure, but you’re buying the location as well. And the location is typically the most important factor in real estate.

You can get a sense of what the neighbors are like, how easy it is to get to and from major roadways, the types of amenities that are in close proximity, and so forth.

What Your True Needs Are

First-time homebuyers might not necessarily know exactly how many bedrooms or bathrooms they want, how large they need the yard to be, or whether a finished basement is really necessary. By attending an open house, they can get a real-life example of what life could be like in the type of home they’re visiting. Open houses can help buyers learn more about the type of amenities, features, and layouts that they prefer.

They may actually find that a townhouse might be something they prefer, or that a bungalow is better than a two-story for them, for instance. Many times buyers won’t know what they want until they’ve had a chance to visit a handful of open houses.

The Type of Home You Can Get in Different Neighborhoods

Every market is different. The market you may see in the downtown core might differ from what might be happening in the suburbs or in another city. By attending open houses in different neighborhoods, you’ll be able to to make market comparisons. The same house that you might see in one area might have a very different price than a similar property in another area.

Seeing other properties can help give you a better idea of whether or not you’re getting a fair price, or if you have any wiggle room to negotiate a lower price. Attending open houses nearby can give you a baseline to compare to when putting in an offer on a home.

The Bottom Line

Open houses don’t just provide buyers with a convenient way to check out what’s available for sale; they also provide certain opportunities to help you learn a thing or two. What you can discover just by attending a handful of open houses can put you in a better position to start seriously looking for a home to buy, get familiar with the neighborhood you want to be in, and even give you some potential negotiating power when it’s time to wheel and deal. They’re definitely worth a visit.

Photo Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Listing

The vast majority of homebuyers search online during the house-hunting process, which means your listing better be in tip-top shape before buyers set their sights on your property. More specifically, the photos you’ve got posted along with your listing must absolutely be as high-quality as possible in order to pique the interests of buyers.

Photos can be the deciding factor of whether or not a buyer decides to make an appointment to see your home in person. Just think about when you’re shopping online for just about any product: if the photo doesn’t do the product justice, you’d be more likely to look elsewhere than to make a purchase. The same concept applies with listings for homes.

Unfortunately, many sellers make a few mistakes with their online photos, which can totally sabotage their listings. Here are some blunders you should try your best to avoid making when it comes to your home’s photos.

Using Too Much Flash

First of all, photos should always be taken during the daytime when natural daylight is at its maximum. This will help to create bright, clear photos without having to depend too much on artificial lighting.

But sometimes there are certain rooms in a house that may be void of windows, but you still want to capture a photo of them anyway. In this case, a flash may be required. The problem is that most built-in flashes on regular cameras or even smartphones can leave bright spots that can cover up details that you want to be depicted in your photos.

You’d be better off illuminating the space appropriately with lighting placed in strategic places to avoid flash spots on your images. Or better yet, hire a pro to do it instead.

Using Blurry Photos

If you’re taking your own photos, make sure the image is in clear focus. Blurry photos will do absolutely nothing for your home. All they will do is tell buyers that you’re not really serious about your listing or don’t even have much pride in your home. Blurry images might also tell buyers that you’re trying to hide certain flaws by keeping them out of focus.

Leaving Odd Things in the Background

When taking photos of the rooms in your home, you shouldn’t just pay attention to the actual components that you want in the shot. You should also be paying attention to things that shouldn’t be in the picture that can compromise their quality.

For instance, you might inadvertently catch your own reflection or shadow in the picture, especially if there are mirrors or windows in the room. It’s also possible to catch another person in the next room who may accidentally photobomb your shot.

Whatever the case may be, forgetting to check the background of your photos could compromise them.

Focusing on the Wrong Things

Not only should your photos be void of any strange items in the background, but they should also not focus on the wrong components. Cameras with autofocus have a tendency to highlight specific items in a shot while leaving other items slightly out of focus.

For instance, it would be strange to have the vase in the living room be the center of a shot when you’re trying to convey the look of an open concept. If you’re taking your own photos with a DSLR camera, be sure to manually focus on what you want rather than leaving it up to the autofocus to decide what should be the center of attention.

Not Taking Enough Photos (Or Taking Too Many)

Buyers typically want to see all rooms of a home online before they make the decision to make an appointment for a showing. Not posting enough images can be a downfall for your listing. But the opposite might also be true. Too many images can just be overkill and can be overwhelming for buyers.

There’s actually a specific sweet spot for the number of images that should be posted online with listings, and that number is around the 15 mark. In fact, having around this number of photos on your listing can increase the number of clicks your listing can get!

Having Too Many Personal Items Out

What you want to do is sell a lifestyle to buyers so they can visualize themselves living in your house and calling it home. But if you’ve got too many things in your images – including personal items and photos – you could unknowingly be distracting buyers. When it comes to details in your listing photos, less is often more.

Not Including an Image of the Exterior of Your Home

Many listings include amazing interior images, but they fail to show buyers what the outside of the home looks like. Failure to include exterior shots will likely tell buyers that while the inside of the home may look nice, there’s probably something wrong with the outside. Or else, why leave such important details out?

Including Items That Could Make Your Home a Target For Theft

Certain expensive items can capture the attention of would-be thieves who may actually peruse online listings to choose their next target. If you leave any valuable items in your online photos, you could be leaving your home vulnerable to theft.

Also, you don’t want to include any details in your online photos that will indicate where you live. Ideally, the street name and house numbers should either be out of the shot completely or blurred out. You’ll also want to blur out the license plate of your car if it’s in the driveway. But ideally, your car shouldn’t be in the shot at all.

The Bottom Line

There are so many little mistakes that you can make with your photos that can actually weaken your listing. It would be in your best interests to learn exactly how to take the right types of photos and use the appropriate equipment to take high-quality shots. Better yet, hire a professional photographer to take photos of your home so you can be certain that you’ll end up with quality photos that will draw buyers in.

How Does Your Primary Residence Impact Capital Gains Taxes When You Sell?

Planning on selling? There’s plenty to consider, including whether or not you’ll potentially be subject to capital gains taxes. 

Generally speaking, any profits that are made from the sale of real estate may be subject to capital gains taxes. The actual profit itself is considered “capital gains,” and the IRS may want a cut of those profits when it comes time to file your taxes in the spring.

But are capital gains taxes applicable to primary residences? Sure, real estate investors may have to pay a cut of the profits they make as part of their overall business. But are homeowners who are selling the properties they live in also subject to capital gains taxes?

Capital Gains Taxes on Primary Residences

This may come as a surprise to many, but the sale of primary residences may be subject to capital gains taxes, depending on the situation.

However, you may be eligible for a capital gains tax cut thanks to the Primary Residence Exclusion in Section 121 of the Internal Revenue Code. Thanks to this exclusion, homeowners who are selling their primary residence can exclude $250,000 of any profits from the sale of their property if they’re single, or up to $500,000 if the taxes are being filed jointly as a married couple.

The caveat is that you must have owned and used the home as your primary residence for a minimum of two consecutive years out of the five years before it is sold.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have lived in the home first two straight years without a break. For example, it’s possible to live in and out of the home sporadically, as long as the total combined amount of time totals two years out of the previous five-year time frame.

If you were away for work or were on an extended vacation for a few months, for instance, any time that you actually lived in the home is included in the two-year requirement. 

Further, even though you are allowed to use this exclusion more than once, you cannot have claimed it at any point in the previous two years.

Let’s say you purchased your home with your spouse in 2013 for $350,000 and owned and lived in it until you decided to sell in 2018 for $550,000. That’s a $200,000 profit, or “gain.” If you owned the house for at least two years and lived in it for at least two out of the last five years, you may not necessarily be subject to any tax implications.

A recent change to the capital gains tax exemption rule now also allows exemptions for special situations. For instance, you may still be eligible to exempt $500,000 even if your spouse has passed away, but you’d have to sell the property in two years after your spouse’s passing. The previous rule stipulated that the home would have to be sold within the same tax year that the spouse passed away.

What if You Don’t Meet the Requirements For Exclusion?

If it is determined by the IRS that you’re ineligible for exclusion from capital gains taxes and are indeed subject to paying, either all or part of the profits you make from the sale of your home may be taxable. At this point, you’ll have to determine the capital gains tax rate that will apply to you. h

Short-term capital gains tax rates. If you owned your primary residence for less than one year, you would be subject to a short-term capital gains tax rate. This is equal to your ordinary income tax bracket.

Long-term capital gains tax rates. If you’ve held onto your home for more than one year before selling it, you could be taxed at the long-term capital gains rate. That said, the exact rate that you will be charged will depend on your income tax bracket. Basically, the higher your income, the higher your tax rate. Many people may qualify for a 0% tax rate; it all depends on your income and filing status.

The Bottom Line

If you’re subject to capital gains taxes when you sell your home, you could be forking over hundreds of thousands of dollars to Uncle Sam come tax time. If you can swing it, taking advantage of the tax exemption makes a lot of financial sense.

Be sure to position yourself appropriately before you consider selling so you can take advantage of this tax exemption and save yourself a ton of money. Of course, speaking with a tax specialist will help you determine what you need to do to help avoid paying capital gains taxes if possible.