Archive for Homeowner Tips

Home Design Trends to Watch in 2018

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

home design trends to watch in 2018We frequently get questions from clients who are taking on decorating and remodeling projects and want to ensure their dollars are invested wisely.

Which looks will last for years to come, and which ones will feel dated quickly? What colors and styles are most popular among buyers in our area? How can I add the most value to my home?

So we’ve rounded up some of the hottest trends in home design to help guide you through the process. Whether you’ve planned a simple refresh or a full-scale renovation, making smart and informed design choices will help you maximize your return on investment … and minimize the chance of “remodeler’s remorse” down the road.

WHAT’S HOT NOW

While 2017 was all about millennial pink, brass fixtures and bright white kitchens, this year we expect to see a move toward warmer, cozier elements throughout the home.

1. Warm Colors

A cool color scheme has dominated home design in recent years, but this year warm neutrals like brown and tan are back, along with rich jewel tones. While the pastel craze of last year is still hanging on, expect to see alternative color palettes featuring deep, saturated shades of red, yellow, green and navy. Grey will remain popular, but in warmer tones, often referred to as “greige.”

2. Cozy Elements

Along with warmer colors, we can expect to see a shift from stark, modern design to cozier looks. Velvet upholstery, woven textures and natural elements, like wood and stone, will heat things up this year.

3. Mixed Metals

It used to be considered gauche to mix finishes, however the look of mixed metals will be very big in 2018. Brass will continue to trend, along with matte black and classics like polished chrome and brushed nickel.

Photo by amorybrown.co.uk – Browse living room photos

4. Bold Patterns

Expect to see a lot of bright, bold patterns in the form of geometric shapes and graphic floral prints. These will be featured on everything from furniture to throw pillows to tile.

5. Natural Elements

Look for the use of natural elements throughout the home, including wood, stone, plants, flowers and grass. Botanical patterns will also be seen in prints, wallpaper and upholstery. Concrete accents will complement these additions in an effort to bring the essence of the outdoors inside the home.

6. Feature Walls

Also called an accent wall, a feature wall is one that exhibits a different color or design than the other walls in the room. Expect to see an increased use of feature walls showcasing rich paint colors, bold patterned wallpaper, and textures brought in through millwork and shiplap.

7. Statement Lighting

Lighting will take center stage with distinctive fixtures, including local artisan and vintage pendants and chandeliers. And smart lighting technology will enable homeowners to customize their lighting experience based on time of day, activity and mood.

8. Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors will continue to dominate the market. The trend is toward either very dark stains paired with light-colored walls or light stains with darker walls. Greyish tones will remain popular, as will matte finishes, which are easier to maintain than high gloss. Expect to see frequent use of wider and longer wood planks, as well as distressed and wire-brushed finishes, which add texture and dimension.

9. Smart Homes

Everything is getting “smarter” in homes, from locks and lights to thermostats and appliances. And with devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, you can control many of these with voice activation from a central hub. We will see continued integration of and advancements in smart-home technology in 2018.

KITCHEN TRENDS

While white kitchens will remain popular in 2018, expect to see more color this year in everything from cabinets to tile to appliances.

1. Two-toned Cabinets

Two-toned cabinets are quickly overtaking the white-on-white look that has dominated kitchen design for the past few years. While white remains a classic, grey and bleached-wood cabinet variations are surging in popularity, along with darker neutrals like navy and green.

2. Quartz Countertops

Granite reigned as the top countertop choice for many years, but quartz is now king. It’s highly durable, low-maintenance and comes in a wide variety of styles and colors. It’s also heat resistant, scratch resistant and non-porous (unlike granite and marble) so it doesn’t need to be sealed.

3. Bold Backsplashes

After years of dominating backsplash design, the white subway tile is officially on its way out. Expect to see it replaced with more elaborate shapes, patterns, colors and textures. Tile that mimics the appearance of wood, concrete and wallpaper is also gaining in popularity.

Photo by Smith & Vansant Architects PCLook for kitchen pictures4. Statement Sinks

While stainless steel and white porcelain are always safe bets, the trend is moving toward sinks that make more of a statement. Look for unexpected pops of color and materials like natural stone and copper. Touch-free faucets are expected to gain favor with homeowners this year, too.

5. Brass is (Still) Back

Brass fixtures came back in a big way over the past couple of years and will continue to be a popular choice in 2018 along with matte black, black nickel, polished chrome and brushed nickel. Missing from the list? Rose gold, which is decidedly “out” this year.

6. Multi-purpose Islands

Kitchen islands have evolved from simple prep-stations into the “workhorse” of the kitchen. Many feature sinks, built-in appliances and under-counter storage while also serving as a casual dining area. They have become the focal point of the kitchen, and we expect to see more of them in 2018 and beyond.

7. Black Stainless Steel

Black stainless steel is the hot new finish option for appliances, and it’s hitting the market in a big way. It offers a cutting-edge look and is easier to keep clean than traditional stainless steel. However, it’s harder to match finishes amongst different brands, so it’s probably only feasible as part of a complete appliance package.

8. Appliance Garages

Appliance garages are counter-level compartments designed to house small appliances like blenders, toasters and stand mixers. They make it convenient to have these items readily accessible, without the look of a cluttered counter.

BATH TRENDS

Expect to see many of the same kitchen design preferences carry over into bathrooms this year, including two-tone cabinets, quartz countertops and brass fixtures.

1. Neutral Tones

Neutral shades will continue to dominate in the master bathroom as homeowners seek a soothing and relaxing retreat atmosphere. But expect to see more options than just white. Shades of brown, grey, blue, green and tan will help to warm things up.

2. Natural Elements

Natural materials are particularly hot right now in bathroom design. This includes the use of wood and stone on walls, cabinets, counters and backsplashes, as well as the incorporation of botanical design elements.

3. Large Tiles

We expect to see a lot more large and slab-sized tiles in bathrooms, which have less grout so they are easier to clean and maintain. Wood-look porcelain tiles are also a favorite in wet areas, as they offer the warmth and rustic appeal of wood with the durability of tile.

4. Stone Sinks

Sinks will continue to be an area where homeowners like to exhibit creativity, and hand-carved stone sinks are especially fashionable right now. These may be more suited to powder rooms, where functionality isn’t as crucial.

5. Freestanding Tubs

There’s been a tub resurgence in bathroom design after years of preference for stand-alone showers. Modern tastes are gravitating toward freestanding tubs that serve as a showpiece for the bathroom.

6. Smart Features

Smart technology has entered the bathroom with the addition of features like wireless shower speakers and high-tech toilets, as well as digital shower controls that automatically adjust to your preferences in temperature and spray intensity

OUR ADVICE

Style trends come and go, so don’t invest in the latest look unless you love it. That said, highly-personalized or outdated style choices can limit the appeal of your property for resale.

For major renovation projects, it’s always a good idea to stick to neutral colors and classic styles. It will give your remodel longevity and appeal to the greatest number of buyers when it comes time to sell. It will also give you flexibility to update your look in a few years without a total overhaul. Use non-permanent fixtures – like paint, furniture and accent pieces – to personalize the space and incorporate trendier choices.

If you’d like advice on a specific remodeling or design project, give us a call! We’re happy to offer our insights and suggestions on how to maximize your return on investment and recommend local shops and service providers who may be able to assist you.

Sources:

1.     Country Living –
http://www.countryliving.com/home-design/decorating-ideas/g3988/kitchen-trends

2.     Elle Decor –
http://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/trends/g14486069/kitchen-trends-2018/

3.     Gates Interior Design  –

Hottest interior design trends for 2018 and 2019

Biggest kitchen and bath trends for 2018

4.     HGTV.com –
http://www.hgtv.com/design/rooms/kitchens/17-top-kitchen-design-trends-pictures

5.     House Beautiful –
http://www.housebeautiful.com/room-decorating/kitchens/g2664/kitchen-trends/
http://www.housebeautiful.com/design-inspiration/g13938283/2018-decor-trends/
http://www.housebeautiful.com/design-inspiration/g13820501/best-and-worst-decor-trends-from-2017/

6.     Houzz –
https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/93399913/list/interior-design-trends-expected-to-take-hold-in-2018

7.     Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/09/25/the-kitchen-and-dining-trends-to-look-out-for-in-2018_a_23222693/

8.     Kitchen and Bath Design News –

Year-end Look and New Trends for 2018

9.     MSN.com –
https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/home-and-garden/12-flooring-trends-for-2018/ss-AAtp7QA

10.   Realtor.com  –
https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/interior-design-trends-to-ditch-2018/
https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/hottest-interior-design-decor-trends-2018/?is_wp_site=1

11.   Realty Times – http://realtytimes.com/advicefromagents/item/1007993-kitchen-design-trends-in-2018?rtmpage=MattLawler

12.   Sebring Design Build –

9 Top Trends in Bathroom Design for 2018

13.   The Flooring Girl –

Hardwood Flooring Trends for 2018

14.   Vogue –
https://www.vogue.com/article/interior-design-trends-according-to-expert-designers-decorators

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

8 Smart Home Technology Trends that Can Save You Money

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects that can serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the wired future, all of our appliances and gadgets talk to each other seamlessly.

What could living in a smart home look like? Picture something like this:

The lights in your bedroom slowly illuminate to quietly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blaring alarm. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifts in and stirs your senses. Once the lights are all the way up, the heating system kicks on, just in time to warm up your room so you’re not shocked once you crawl out from underneath the duvet.

When you step into the shower, it turns on automatically and remembers your preferred temperature and water pressure. And it will shut off right when you’re finished as it knows how long you take to bathe.

Once you’ve driven out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. And it will only unlock automatically when it “sees” and recognizes someone else from your family approaching through programmed in biometrics.

Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes, we haven’t reached the point where every feature intuitively knows what you want and when you wanted. However, each year we’re getting closer and closer toward that shiny, idealized ‘Jetson’ future.

Here are some trends that we see for smart homes, many of which may also help you save money:

Smart Thermostats

Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.

With the newer models, smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when they sense you are present. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so that you’re saving energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone so that you can adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.

Smart Smoke Detectors

Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives. But unfortunately, many of us still have those battery-run smoke detectors that make that annoying, piercing beep when their batteries are running low on power. And instead of replacing batteries right away, it’s often easier to pull them out and disable the detector (while risking our lives).

Many of the new smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, as well as air quality. With this new sensor technology, they know the difference between a real fire and burnt toast.

Smart Sprinkler Control

Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often, especially during the summer months, we fall into a severe drought. But then we might have one season that brings extreme amounts of rain, like we did this past spring.

A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio Iro can not only help save you lots of money on your water bill but also help protect our precious resources.

Programmable by computer or smart phone, it can automatically adjust how often you water your lawn based on the season and the weather forecasts. You can also remotely adjust the settings through a mobile app.

Smart Solar Panels

You can put the sun to work for you by using solar technology to power your home. It’s green and renewable, and can save you money over the long term. A recent study conducted by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center determined that Austin customers who invested in a solar system saved an average of $66 per month during the first year that they owned the system.

With smart solar panels, you can program the technology to monitor their performance and even turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.

Smart Home Security Systems

Home monitoring has become much more sophisticated in recent years. With the old-style security systems, you had to call in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.

With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense whether doors and windows are closed or opened. Some systems include audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off intruders. You get real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted as soon as the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely that they will be caught.

Canary is one popular all-in-one audio-video security system, complete with sirens and night vision.

Smart Locks

Go beyond the standard key locks, which can often be compromised by burglars. The new smart lock systems give you more control over those who can gain access to your home.

Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or cleaning service in during a specific window of time.

Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you and unlock your door.

The new August smart lock integrates with Apple’s technology so you can ask Siri to open your door for you.

Smart lighting systems and light bulbs

A well-lit home feels warm and welcoming, and good lighting can instantly increase the value of your home.

However, annual lighting costs can account for up to 12% of your overall electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can easily reduce this expense simply by using smart lighting technology to add efficiency.

The Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add to your home without installing specialized equipment. Smart lighting dimmers and sensors can give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to turn them on and off through your smart phone.

New smart light bulbs can give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs, for example, you can program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you up with increasing illumination, or to change from daytime work lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.

Smart Appliances

Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint, old-fashioned versions of these home conveniences. Newer, smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it easier for you to complete pesky household chores.

  • Newer coffee makers, like the Smarter coffee machine, let you ‘order’ your coffee exactly to your liking, adjusting everything from bean grind to temperature to strength to time that it’s ready to drink.
  • Smart refrigeration technology can help you store your food at just the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat during peak usage times. For example, the LG THINQ fridgecan alert you via smart phone app if a door is accidentally left open.
  • Smart ovens can ensure that your food is cooked to the right level of done-ness, and alert you when your meal is ready to eat. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you even more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what you like to eat and make menu suggestions.
  • Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. And soon, connected appliances from GE, Oster, Samsung, and other makers, will be able to re-order soap and fabric softener directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to think about running to the store at the last minute.

Have you tested any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss any of your favorite home technologies? Let us know in the comments!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

How to Amp Up The Resale Value of Your Home

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

how to amp up the resale value of your homeWhether you’re putting your home on the market this year or in the next five years, it is a smart decision to start building your home’s resale value now. Here are some ways to create a comfortable home while making it easier to put more money into your bank account on closing day.

Small Maintenance and Repairs

If you think that home maintenance on the weekends waste your time and energy, think again. The small chores you do around your home prevents it from losing value. Neglecting small maintenance and repairs causes 10% of your home’s value to walk out your door and slip through your windows. Most appraisers claim that homes showing little to no preventative maintenance can depreciate from $15,000 to $20,000.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University shows that regular maintenance boosts your home value by about 1% per year. However, ongoing maintenance costs offset that value, which means that regular maintenance actually slows down your rate of depreciation. Furthermore, because homebuyers generally notice any repairs needed upon buying a new home, proactive maintenance lets the homebuyer know that he or she will not have to spend extra money to maintain the basics. This makes your home more attractive, and thus more likely to get higher priced offers.

Maintaining the basics can cost you little money and certainly some effort, but there’s a way to accomplish this very important activity smartly. This article by HouseLogic, for example, shows you how to keep home maintenance below $300 a year.  Planning ahead will also help make maintaining your home easier. Most professional appraisers and real estate agents recommend a proactive maintenance schedule that includes:

  • Keeping enough cash on hand to replace systems and materials
  • Creating and following a maintenance schedule
  • Planning a room redo every year
  • Keeping a notebook of all your maintenance and repairs

Landscaping

The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech published a study that shows landscaping can increase a home’s value by 15%.  The study claims that a home valued at $150,000 could increase its value between $8,300 and $19,000 with the addition of landscaping. Particular landscape elements add different value. For instance, landscape design can increase your home’s value by 42%, plant size can increase your home’s value by 32%, and diversity in plants can increase your home’s value by 22%.

Replace Entrance Doors

If your entry doors are wood, consider switching them out for either fiberglass or steel doors. Steel doors add style and architectural interest to your home while improving security; you can add a deadbolt and electronic keypads to keep out intruders. Unlike wood doors, steel doors do not rot or splinter.

Alternatively, fiberglass doors can be designed to look like wood doors and give your home a modern look. Fiberglass doors conserve more energy than steel doors.

Pricewise, a steel door will cost you $1,335 with a 91% return on investment whereas a fiberglass door will cost you $3,126 with an 82.3% return on investment.

Garage Door Replacement

At first, you might not think that your garage door increases the value of your home. However, your garage door distinguishes your home from the other homes on your block. As the largest entryway of a house, garage doors get noticed first because they’re the focal point of your home. If you want to quickly increase the resale value of your home, you need to make the most of this space.

Some interesting things being done with garage doors include:

  • Increased Size: Bigger garage doors help homes stand out more, and homeowners can do more creatively with them.
  • Bold Colors: Bright and bold colors now can complement the color of your home, or you can build a concept around the color of your home.
  • Faux Wood: You can install fiberglass or steel garage doors that look like wood garage doors. This gives your home a new level of sophistication.
  • Windows: Large Windows on your garage door improve the aesthetic of your home, and provide light into your garage so that it’s no longer a dark space.

More importantly, a garage door replacement will cost you $1,652 and add $1,512 to the value of your home; that’s a return on your investment of 91.5%.

Fiberglass Attic Insulation

While energy efficiency is still not the sexiest selling point of your home, installing fiberglass attic insulation saves energy and garners a big payback on your investment. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value top trends report, fiberglass attic insulation gained the top return on investment among the 30 projects in this year’s report. Using Remodel/Max as the cost source, a fiberglass attic insulation project cost $1,268 nationwide.  Real estate professionals surveyed estimated that the work would boost the price of a home at resale, within a year of its completion, by $1,482. That’s a 116.9% return on investment.

Replacing Windows

Replacing your windows is another way to save energy and increase your home’s resale value. Replacing your old windows with energy saving models will beautify your home, keep it comfortable, and ease the workload of your HVAC system. According to HGTV, you’ll see a reduction in your utility bill by 7% to 15%. However, if you’re selling your home, you could expect a 60% to 70% recoupment of your investment. The two types of replacement windows that fetch the best return are vinyl and wood.

Remodeling Your Kitchen

Kitchen remodeling can get expensive, but small renovations can make your home more buyer friendly. Changing your kitchen’s texture and color using a matte finish and neutral colors such as putty or grey enhances your home’s resale value. Because matte finishes have transitional qualities, your potential homebuyer can easily match his or her stainless steel or black and white appliances. Also, refinishing cabinetry, or switching to Energy Star™ appliances provide comfort you like and pizazz buyers adore.

Flow is important to any interior design of a home. If you feel that your kitchen hinders a good flow, change it. A small investment to knock out a non-structural wall or remove a kitchen island creates space and provides flow that buyers love.

A minor kitchen remodel can cost you $20,122 while putting $16,716 of resale value into your home; that’s an 83% payback on the project. If you want to do a major kitchen model, this can cost you about $60,000 and put about $39,000 of resale value into your home, which is only about a 65% payback on the project. Therefore, consider a minor kitchen remodel first.

Bathroom Addition or Remodel

Likewise, carefully consider adding a bathroom or remodeling your bathroom. Switching out your frosted glass shower doors for glass doors, cleaning the grout, replacing the shower and floor tiles, switching out your sink or toilet, or replacing your sink and shower fixtures can cost you little money.

Adding a bathroom can get expensive, but it can reduce congestion during hectic times and provide your guests with a bathroom. Consult with your real estate agent or a local appraiser before deciding whether a full remodel or addition is right for your situation. While a bathroom remodel will cost you about $18,000 with a return on investment of about 66%, a bathroom addition will cost you about $42,000 with a return on investment of about 56%. Therefore, it’s best do your due diligence before working on your bathroom.

Your Needs and Buyers’ Wants

On that note, if you need to renovate your home, be sure to consider how those changes will affect its appeal to future buyers. Knowing design trends will give you the opportunity to make changes to your home based on where your needs and your potential buyer’s desires intersect, thus increasing your property’s resale value drastically.

Designers and design websites provide great ideas when you’re brainstorming home renovations. Keep in mind as you research, however, that you don’t want to sacrifice your needs for a comfortable home just for the sake of what you think a future buyer will want!

Therefore, before you begin making any changes to your home, consult your real estate agent. Real estate agents, because we are constantly working with new buyer clients, have insider insight into what home buyers are looking for now and in the future. We’ll be able to help you make smart choices when remodeling or renovating your home.

If you think you might want to remodel or renovate your home in the near future, or if you are just curious about other ways you can increase its resale value, please reach out to me!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Top Homeowner Tax Deductions That Decrease Your Tax Burden

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

You can’t avoid paying taxes, and we all need to pay our fair share. However, paying your fair share shouldn’t place an unjust burden on you. As a homeowner, your tax burden is doubled because you pay both income and property taxes. To decrease that burden and boost your tax savings, take advantage of these homeowner tax deductions. As a result, you can use your tax savings to go on a vacation, increase your child’s college fund, build upon your retirement fund, or complete another home improvement project.

Home Improvement Tax Deduction

You spend so much of your time at home, and you try to make it as comfortable a place to live as possible. If your home needs some upgrades, consider improvements that will help foot the bill for themselves.

You can get an energy-efficient tax credit of up to $500 for installing storm doors and energy-efficient insulation and air-conditioning and heating systems. Switching out your old windows for energy-efficient ones could earn you $200. This credit expires this year on December 31st. So, this year will be your last chance to take advantage of getting tax credit for making your home more energy efficient.
Also, installing equipment that uses renewable sources of energy makes you eligible for the Renewable Energy Efficiency Property Credit. The credit covers 30 percent of the cost of equipment and installation. This credit also expires this year on December 31st.

Mortgage Interest and Refinancing

If your mortgage payment makes you cringe each month, you’ll be glad to know you can deduct taxes on the following:

* Interest towards mortgage

* Mortgage payments for additional property

* Rental properties

* Refinancing and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) up to $100,000 of debt.

If you own multiple properties, the mortgage interest on additional property is deductible as well. The cool thing is that it doesn’t have to be a house. It can be a boat or RV; as long as it has cooking, sleeping, and bathroom facilities, it counts as additional property.

Regarding using your second home as a rental, you need to vacation at least 14 days at the property or spend more than 10 percent of the number of days you rent it out.

Furthermore, you can claim points on your mortgage the year you paid them if the following happened:

* The loan was to purchase or build your main home

* Payment of points is an established business practice in your area and the points were within the usual range

Property Taxes

Now, this is the big one. Property taxes you pay each year are tax deductible. The amount of property taxes you paid for the year shows up on your lender’s annual statement. You must deduct them as an itemized expense on your Schedule A tax form.

First-time homebuyers, look at your settlement sheet to see additional tax payment data. You may deduct the portion of property taxes you paid during the first year of your homeownership.

Protesting Your Assessment to Lower Your Property Taxes

Although you must pay property taxes, you can make sure that you pay a reasonable amount based on the true value of your home and land. Many homes get overvalued because assessors err in valuing a home and homeowners don’t pay attention to these mistakes. Consequently, homeowners unwittingly pay more than they should in property taxes.

However, if you’ve owned your home for more than a year, you can potentially lower your property tax burden by showing that your home has been overvalued, meaning that your tax assessment claims your property is worth more than it is.

Even if the number on the tax assessment seems close, you should still consider protesting your property tax. Typical savings from a successful tax protest is over 15%!

According to SmartAsset, the national median property tax paid is roughly $2,839.00. That’s about 1.192 percent of a home valued at $238,200.00.

If you’re able to reduce your assessed value by 15 percent to $202,470.00 and consequently save 15 percent on your tax bill, your new tax bill will be about 2,413.00. That’s a savings of $426.00!

To get started protesting your property tax, read your assessment letter. Your assessment letter will list data about your property and the assessed value of your house and land. Make sure your assessment letter has the correct information about your property.

Understanding that assessors can make mistakes assessing your home value will help you with your appeal. There are three key mistakes assessor make when assessing property. These mistakes include:

  1. Outdated Historic Sales Data: Sometimes assessors will use sales data from previous years. Because the real estate market is fluid, this data changes quickly, as a result; this data can over value your home.
  2. Mass Appraisal Methods: Also, when assessors use mass appraisal methods, they do not take into account all the market adjustments that occurred over time. Consequently, there sales data can’t always produce useful comparable properties to set future sales.
  3. Living Area: Assessors notoriously make mistakes about the living area of your house. This is especially true if you live in a 1.5 or 2 story home. Check any previous appraisals to ensure correct measurements and description of our home. Does the assessment letter show the right number of bathrooms and bedrooms? Does it report the correct size of your lot? .5 acres differs greatly than 5.0 acres.

After reading your assessment letter, consult a Realtor. We can find three to five approximate values of comparable properties similar to yours, and these comps can then be used to support your claim that your home is overvalued. This is especially useful if the assessor used poor historical sales data.

You’ll have 30 days to file an appeal of your assessment, so you’ll want to get the comps as soon as your assessment arrives. You can speak with an assessor on the phone or request a formal review.

You’ll then need to fill out a form and follow specific instructions regarding your supporting evidence. Typically, it’s not necessary for you to appear at the review. The review can take one to three months to complete, and you’ll receive a decision in writing.

The majority of assessment appeals are successful. However, if at first you don’t succeed, appeal. You’ll need to pay a small filing fee for an independent appeals board to hear your second appeal. This process could take up to a year to complete, so you’ll need to decide whether it’s truly worth it.

As a homeowner, you have plenty of options available to decrease your tax burden. The benefit is that you can use your tax savings for major life events such as weddings, vacations, and home improvements.

To find out more about your tax saving options as a homeowner, check out tax information for homeowners. You can also contact me directly and I’ll gladly lead you in the right direction towards saving you money on your taxes.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Create a Home Inventory for Insurance

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

home inventoryExperiencing a theft, flood, fire, or other casualty loss can be devastating. Imagine trying to list from memory for your insurance claim every single item that was damaged or destroyed. The task will be less daunting if you create a home inventory in advance and keep it in a safe place. We turned to HouseLogic for some great ideas on this very topic.

  • Having a digital camera and video recorder will make creating an inventory much easier.
  • Set aside enough time to review your insurance policies, dig up receipts, document your possessions, and figure out where you’ll store your records. One day should be sufficient.

The average home is packed with an array of items collected over the years. And while you may be able to list many of them in a pinch, chances are you’d miss some important possessions if you ever needed to reconstruct your home’s contents from memory.

Your job doesn’t end once you’ve compiled a home inventory, a detailed list of everything in your household. Be sure to compare estimated values to your policy’s coverage to ensure that you’ll be able to replace your belongings in case of damage or theft.

Jack Hungelmann, author of “Insurance for Dummies,” says a picture can be worth more than just a thousand words—it can add up to thousands in cash if you ever need to file an insurance claim. Hungelmann recommends using a digital camcorder or camera to take pictures of each room to document your belongings. “I recommend that people open up their cupboards and drawers. Be sure you have a record of all the things you own,” he says.

You can literally walk from room to room and record narrative descriptions of items. You should note whether something is an antique, for example, or if it has other qualities that make it especially valuable such as the size of a television screen or the type of stones in a piece of jewelry. Get close-up shots of serial numbers on electronics, power tools, and the like.

Filling in a printed checklist with serial numbers, brands, quantities, and estimated values will prove indispensable if an insurance claim ever needs to be filed. The adjuster will likely ask for such a list, and you can use the video or photos as proof of ownership. You can download free printed checklists from the Internet.

internetOf course, such documentation is useless if it’s destroyed in a natural disaster, consumed by fire, or stolen along with your personal computer. Hungelmann says that using digital media allows you to store the files on online backup services like Carbonite.com, Google Drive, Dropbox or iBackup.com in case your home is destroyed.

If you’d like to save the $10 or more per month these services typically cost, you could also save the files on a USB drive that’s kept in a safe-deposit box, at a relative’s home, or in your emergency bag. The bag should include essentials your family needs in case you’re forced to flee on short notice.

Emcee Arah – “the REALTOR with Architectural Dimension” – is both a Certified Distress Property Expert (CDPE) and a Certified Investor Agent Specialist (CIAS). He is uniquely equipped to assist you in navigating today’s residential real estate market. Contact us online or by phone at (301) 452-5252. And don’t forget to leave your comments below – we’d love to hear from you!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Home Improvement Tips

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

home improvement tipsWe all think about home improvement from time to time. We would love to remodel our kitchens or bathrooms, add on a room or expand to our outdoor spaces with decks and patios. Here are some tips for doing home improvement that will add resale value to your home.

  • Refurbish the basement. If your home has a basement, don’t leave it as empty space. Remodel it to add a recreation room or home theater. Any addition of enclosed heated or cooled space adds resale value.
  • Add on a deck. A space to relax and enjoy cool drinks. A homeowner who adds a deck will likely recoup around 75% of their money back when they sell. But mind the size. Most appraisers will compare your home to similar ones in the neighborhood. So “keeping up with the Joneses” might be the way to go.
  • Major master bath remodel. Turning your last decade bath into a updated future decade bath is where its at. Add some space if you can find it. His/hers sinks and vanities are always a good sell. Update your tub, shower and tile.
  • Paint those walls! Most prospective buyers want to be able to visual their stuff in your home. One way to help is by painting the walls a neutral base color. Consult a professional for color selections if you need help. Hire a pro painter if you can’t do it yourself.
  • Attic space. If you have some large open attic space why not create a bedroom or hobby room in it. Add value with recessed windows, built-ins, hardwood flooring and some window seating.
  • Expand upward. If you can’t go outward, go upward. Even out the look of your house by adding a second story over the garage or a flat-roofed area. This will create additional square footage (heated/cooled) and add resale value.
  • Keep room options open. We all want to make our home ours but what happens if a room becomes too custom. Buyers often can’t see beyond highly customized areas. So make sure the room is flexible and can be changed easily.
  • Revitalize your kitchen. Kitchens sell houses so investing a bit or a lot of money in this room will get you value. Buyers today expect to see stainless steel appliances and draw pulls and knobs. Add some new lighting and maybe some tile and you have a nice updated space.
  • Minor bathroom changes count. If you can’t afford a big remodel then consider replacing your dated tub, toilet, sink and/or tile. Maybe change out the old “surround” for a tile wall and floor. Even minor changes can reinvigorate your spaces.
  • Last but not least, replace your siding. By updating your siding, you will increase the first impression a prospective buyer will get when they look at your home. If the siding and trim look bad, then you get the label of fixer-upper. Not a good resale title.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Energy Efficient Home

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Did you know that making your home energy efficient increases the value?
energy efficient home

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to one study, making no cost/low cost changes can boost your home’s value $18,000. Why not implement some of the following suggestions to make your home more energy efficient?

  1. Lower the thermostat on your water heater. If your hot tap water is too hot to touch, lower the temperature a few degrees.
  2. Check for air leaking around doors and windows. A lot of the air you pay to heat or cool escapes through unsealed doors and windows. Install or replace worn weather stripping. Replace broken or missing storm doors.
  3. Keep heat producers far from your thermostat in summer. Floor lamps and televisions can significantly raise the
    temperature in the area near a thermostat, turning on your air conditioner too often.
  4. Clean your furnace and air conditioner filters. Replace existing dirty air conditioner or furnace filters. During heavy use periods, replacement is recommended every 30 days.
  5. Operate large appliances during low-use periods in summer. Use your washer and dryer and other heat-producers
    early in the morning or late at night. Use the air-dry method on your dishwasher to save energy.
  6. Request an energy audit. Contact your local utility company to request a free energy audit. Most electric and gas companies will check for proper insulation, find cracks in the eaves or roof that could leak energy, and make
    recommendations for improvements. Some electric companies offer low-cost financing for such improvements. Also ask about energy conservation programs such as Gulf power’s Energy Select. They offer three different levels of cost based on usage periods during the day.
  7. Replace existing insulation. A proper barrier keeps heat and cold from penetrating your home’s exterior and provides for
    even temperatures between rooms. The EPA recently reported that proper ceiling insulation may reduce electric bills 20%.
  8. Replace existing appliances. Replace old appliances with Energy Star rated appliances, specifically created to optimize energy consumption. If your budget limits you to replacing one appliance, buy a new refrigerator; a new model could knock off 25% of your electric bill.
  9. Replace your incandescent or CFL lightbulbs with new LED lights. LEDs run for a year or more on what an incandescent spends in a month.
  10. Contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding EEM Mortgages. EEMs provide benefits to borrowers purchasing a home that is energy efficient, or can be made efficient with improvements.
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Home Maintenance Tips

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Plumbing, Fixtures and Appliances

water-kitchen-black-designWater damage in your house is both hazardous to your health and costly to repair. The following list will help you maintain your homes plumbing and keep your house dry, from either man made or natural water problems.

  • Check water hoses and connections
  • Check dishwasher hoses for leaks
  • Check toilet supply/shut-off valve
  • Clean & check refrigerator drip pan and/or ice-maker connections
  • Check shower/tub surrounds for signs of damage including mold or mildew
  • check traps and drains under sinks, tubs and showers for leaks
  • Check hot water heater for leaks
  • Check boiler for leaks
  • Check water main/meter or well pump for leaks or sweating
  • Clean septic tank
  • Check garage, driveways and other outdoor areas for water damage
  • Ensure that water is not pooling near the house and drains properly
  • Check the attic for leaks or water damage
  • Look for leaks by window and door sills
  • Clean and maintain gutters and downspouts, ensuring water flows away from the house

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Homeowner Tax Tips

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Home Office – Is your home office Tax Deductible?

tax benefits for homeownersYou can deduct certain expenses if your home office is the principal place where your trade or business is conducted or where you meet and deal with clients or patients in the course of your business. Your home office will qualify as your principal place of business if you use it exclusively and regularly for the administrative or management activities associated with your trade or business. There must be no other fixed place where you conduct substantial administrative or management activities.

Generally, the amount you can deduct depends on the percentage of your home used for business. Your deduction will be limited if your gross income from your business is less than your total business expenses.

Here are some basic facts to consider if you work at home:

$ A home office may qualify for deductions if you use it for administrative or management activities of your trade or business if there is no other fixed location to conduct such activities.

$ The home office deduction is available to you whether you rent or own.

$ If you rent, figuring your home office deduction is relatively simple. Just multiply your annual rent payment by the percentage of the total space occupied by the office. That prorated portion can also be applied to utilities, insurance, repairs and maintenance.

$ There are limitations to home office deductions based on your income. The taxpayer must be able to itemize deductions, using Schedule A. The home office deductions – along with other miscellaneous deductions – must exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income.

$ If home office deductions exceed net self-employment income, those deductions may be carried forward to the next year, again, only if the self-employed has sufficient net income.

$ For telecommuters, the business use of an employee’s home must be for the convenience of the employer, and the employee must not be renting the office space to the employer.

5 Tips for Understanding Home-Office Deductions
tax benefits for homeowners

Tax Savings

  • Take advantage of every legal opportunity to reduce your taxes. Recent changes in the law benefit business owners who use their homes as an administrative and  management base but work at other locations.
  • Ask your tax professional to analyze your business regularly so you don’t miss  important deductions.
  • Document deductible items. These usually include such costs as computers and other
    equipment, telephone charges, furnishings, and prorated portions of rent, utilities and home insurance. You may not deduct expenses for lawn care or those related to rooms not used for business.
  • If you are a homeowner, discuss with your tax adviser whether or not to take a depreciation deduction for the office space.
  • For detailed information, go to the Internal Revenue Service website, and download IRS Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home.
If You’ve Got It, Deduct It… Maybe

tax benefits for homeownersRunning a home-based business can offer many beneficial tax deductions that other businesses sometimes may not claim. Unfortunately, too many small business owners end up paying extra taxes every year because they are unaware of several small business deductions that are available.

Each business may be different, however, so be sure to discuss any possible deductions with
your tax adviser or accountant.

$ If you join any business or purchase into any franchise, the expenses, such as kits or  franchise fees, may be claimed as deductions.

$ Be sure to save all receipts for any supplies you purchase for your business use. Computer  paper, business cards, pens, catalogs, or any other items you purchase and use for your business.

$ Most advertising and giveaways can be claimed on your taxes. Keep all receipts for any newspaper ads or any advertising you do online.

$ If you have a phone line or internet connection for business use, save all receipts for each bill paid.

$ If you incur fees from customers’ bounced checks, those amounts may be deductible. Be sure to keep the returned check, the letter from your bank and your bank statement to show the fees you were charged.

$ Keep receipts for all shipping supplies and postage.

$ Computers, copiers and fax machines may also be deductible.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Tax Benefits for Homeowners

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

5 Star GuaranteeWe all know the old adage about nothing being certain except death and taxes. However, on a more positive note, you can also be certain of tax benefits if, that is, you are a homeowner.

Purchasing a home can provide valuable tax savings to home buyers. Mortgage interest, property tax, and other payments associated with financing a home can apply to your tax deductions. They may decrease the amount of income tax you must pay to the federal government.

Another financial advantage to owning a home is that as you begin to pay off your mortgage
loan, you build equity in your property. In other words, the value of your home can increase as your total mortgage amount decreases over time.

Additional Advantages of Home Ownership
  • Scheduled Savings: When you are a homeowner, your monthly mortgage payments serve as a type of savings plan. Over time you will accumulate what lenders call “equity,” an ownership interest in your house that you may be able to borrow against or convert to cash by selling the house.
  • Stable Housing Costs: While rents typically increase year after year, the principal and interest portion of most mortgage payments remains unchanged for the entire repayment period. Because of the effect of inflation, you pay the same amount with ever “cheaper” dollars.
  • Increased Value: Houses typically increase in value over time. It’s not unusual for a house that sold fifteen years ago to be valued at much more than its selling price today. This increased value is as good as money in the bank to the homeowner.
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube