Finding a place to call home
By Jason Gelios REALTOR®
I was working with a young couple that was looking to find their perfect home. They were renting a cozy little place and decided it was time to purchase their own home. The monthly obligation of sending a check for rent to their landlord had tired them out. It was time to get out into the market.
After reviewing some of the things they want in a home and learning what areas they wanted to focus on we hit the streets fast. We scoured over multiple properties online and in person. We scheduled showings on the first day a home hit the market only to learn the house had already received multiple offers. Doing our best to find 'the one' yet realizing that this would be a tougher task to achieve. It was obvious that this market was favoring the sellers. We had to move fast. We had to be diligent. We had to come in strong if we locate a residence that they can call home.
Weeks go by. Three offers not accepted. Disappointment and frustration kick in. We continue the path towards their next home. Finally, we stumble across the one they were looking for. Could this be it? We had a conversation about what our offer should be at and we presented it to the other side fast. We were happy to announce that our offer had been accepted!
What is my point in sharing this story? Purchasing a home can be one of the most stressful times in a persons life. While a great REALTOR® can help make the process smoother, the process of deciding if a home is right for you can be tough. It can take a toll on someone fairly quick. The process must be known up front to a home buyer. It must be known that it can take time locating the right home. Real estate changes daily with homes coming on the market all the time. Home buying can be a rewarding task with a promise of many memorable years in the new home. If patience is non-existent than the process of buying a home can be extremely stressful.
If you take away one thing from this article it is that you must have patience, know what type of market it is and work with a professional who will make sure you are an educated home buyer. This in turn makes the process a lot easier and a lot less stressful. Because for me, purchasing a home was one of the best things I have ever accomplished. It can be the same for you.
By: HouseLogic Editor
Published: February 26, 2013
No need for fancy DIY skills, a lot of money, or a ton of time to pull off these yard upgrades.
It’s your yard -- yours to do with as you wish. And while that’s great, that doesn’t mean you have to be one of those people who spends every spare moment in their yard, sprucing it up.
But, still, your landscaping could use a little something. But something easy.
Here are five totally doable projects that your budget will barely notice, but your neighbors definitely will:
#1 Add Some (Tough) Edging
Tell your grass who’s boss with edging that can stand up to even the crabbiest of all crabgrasses.
But don’t make the mistake that many homeowners make of buying the flexible plastic stuff, thinking it will be easier to install. It’ll look cheap and amateurish from day one. Worse, it won’t last. And before you know it, you won’t be able to tell where your garden bed ends and your “lawn” begins. Instead buy the more rigid, tough stuff in either fiberglass, aluminum, or steel.
Tips on installing edging:
The cost? Mostly your time, and up to $2.50 a square foot for the edging.
#2 Create a Focal Point with a Berm
A berm is a mound of gently sloping earth, often created to help with drainage. You can also build them to create “island beds,” a focal point of textures and colors that are so much more interesting than plain ol’ green grass. Plus, they’ll give you privacy -- and diffuse street noises. What’s not to like about that? Especially if you live in more urban areas. For most yards, berms should max out at 2-feet high because of the space needed to properly build one. They need a ratio of 4-6 feet of width for every foot of height. That’s at least 8 feet for a typical 2-foot high berm. So be sure you have the room, or decrease the height of your berm.
Popular berm plantings include:
#3 Make a Flagstone Wall
Aim to build a wall no more than 12 inches tall, and it becomes a super simple DIY project -- no mortar needed at all!
How to build an easy flagstone wall:
The cost? About $300 for stones and sand (a ton of 2-inch-thick stone is enough for a wall 10 feet long and 12 inches high).
#4 Install a Path with Flagstone or Gravel
There’s something romantic, charming, and simply welcoming about a meandering pathway to your front door or back garden — which means it has super-huge impact when it comes to your home’s curb appeal.
You can use flagstone, pea gravel, decomposed or crushed granite, even poured concrete (although that’s not easy to DIY).
A few tips for building a pathway:
The cost? Anywhere from a couple of hundred bucks to upwards of $500 depending on the material you use, with decomposed granite being the least expensive, and flagstone (also the easiest of the bunch to install) the costliest.
#5 Build a Tree Surround
Installing a masonry surround for a tree is a two-fer project: It looks great, and it means you’ve got less to mow. Come to think of it, it’s a three-fer. It can work as extra seating when you have your lawn party, too!
All it takes is digging a circular trench, adding some sand, and installing brick, cement blocks, or stone. Just go for whatever look you like best.
The trickiest part is getting an even circle around the tree. Here’s how:
Then build the tree surround:
The cost? Super cheap. You can do it for less than $25 with commonly-available pavers and stones.
By: Leanne Potts
Published: December 21, 2018
Here's the scoop on what's tax deductible when buying a house.
Are closing costs tax deductible? What about mortgage interest? Or property taxes? The answer is, maddeningly, “It depends."
Basically, you'll want to itemize if you have deductions totaling more than the standard deduction, which is $12,000 for single people and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. Every taxpayer gets this deduction, homeowner or not. And most people take it because their actual itemized deductions are less than the standard amount.
But should you take it?
To decide, you need to know what's tax deductible when buying or owning a house. Here's the list of possible deductions:
The one-time home purchase costs that are tax deductible as closing costs are real estate taxes charged to you when you closed, mortgage interest paid when you settled, and some loan origination fees (a.k.a. points) applicable to a mortgage of $750,000 or less.
But you'll only want to itemize them if all your deductions total more than the standard deduction.
Costs of closing on a home that aren't tax deductible include:
Mortgage interest and property taxes are annual expenses of owning a home that may or may not be deductible. Continue reading to learn more about those.
Yearly, you can write off the interest you pay on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt. Most homeowners don't have mortgages large enough to hit the cap, says Evan Liddiard, CPA, director of federal tax policy for the National Association of REALTORS®. But people who live in pricey places like San Francisco and Manhattan, or homeowners anywhere with hefty mortgages, will likely maximize the mortgage interest deduction.
Note: The $750,000 cap affects loans taken out after Dec. 17, 2017. If you have an loan older than that and you itemize, you can keep deducting your mortgage interest debt up to $1 million. But if you re-fi that loan, you can only deduct the interest on the amount up to the balance on the day you refinanced – you can't take extra cash and deduct the interest on the excess.
Home Equity Loan Interest
You can deduct the interest on a home equity loan or a second mortgage. But — and this is a big but — only if you use the proceeds to substantially improve your house, and only if the loan, combined with your first mortgage, doesn't add up to more than the magic number of $750,000 (or $1 million if the loans were existing as of Dec. 15, 2017).
If you use a home equity loan to pay medical bills, go to Paris, or for anything but home improvement, you can't write off the interest on your taxes.
State and Local Taxes
You can deduct state and local taxes you paid, including property, sales, and income taxes, up to $10,000. That's a low cap for people who live in places where state and local taxes are high, says Liddiard. To give you an idea of how low: The average amount New Yorkers have taken in state and local tax deductions in past years is about $22,000.
Loss From a Disaster
You can write off the cost of damage to your home if it's caused by an event in a federally declared disaster zone, like areas in Florida after Hurricane Michael or Shasta County, Calif., after a rash of wildfires.
This means standard-variety disasters like a busted water pipe while you're on vacation or a fire caused because you left the toaster on aren't deductible.
This deduction is also only for some. You can deduct moving expenses if you're an active member of the armed forces moving to a new station. And by the way, no matter who you are, if your employer pays your moving expenses, you'll have to pay taxes on the reimbursement. "This will be a real hardship to many because it’s non-cash income," says Liddiard. Some employers may up the gross to provide cash to pay the tax, but many likely will not.
This is a deduction you don't have to itemize. You can take it on top of the standard deduction, but only if you're self-employed. If you are an employee and your boss lets you telecommute a day or two a week, you can't write off home office expenses. You claim it on Schedule C.
Anyone paying a mortgage and a student loan payment will be happy to hear that the interest on your education loan is tax-deductible on top of the standard deduction (no need to itemize). And you can deduct as much as $2,500 in interest per year, depending on your modified adjusted gross income.
Ways to Increase Your Eligible Deductions
There are some other itemize-able costs not related to being a homeowner that could bump you up over the standard deduction. This might allow you to write off your mortgage interest. Charitable contributions and some medical expenses are itemize-able, although medical expenses must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
So if you've have had a hospital stay or are generous, you could be in itemized-deduction land.
Also, if you're a single homeowner, it could be easier for you to exceed the standard deduction, Liddiard says. The itemized deductions on your house will probably more quickly break the $12,000 standard deduction threshold than a couple's similar house will break their $24,000 threshold.
Tax-Savvy Home-Buying Ideas
If you're a prospective homeowner with an eye to making the most efficient use of your tax benefits, here are a few ways to buy smart:
Though every homeowner's tax benefits will be a little different, in the end, you're building equity, you'll likely make money when you sell, and you have the freedom to paint your walls any color you want and get a dog.
If you are in need of a referral to a reliable CPA, please click here to reach out to Jason Gelios REALTOR® for your referral.
Jason Gelios is a Husband and Father. After that, a Top Producing REALTOR®, Author of the books 'Think like a REALTOR®' and 'Beating The Force Of Average', Creator of The AskJasonGelios Real Estate Show and Expert Media Contributor to media outlets across the country.