Make the Most of Home Ownership Tax Breaks

Tax Pic

The simplest financial reason to buy a home is that it is a better investment, in the long run, than renting. You have to live somewhere, so why not pay your own mortgage and not your landlord’s? But don’t forget to reap the not insignificant financial benefits of home ownership along the way.

The tax benefits listed below apply to multiple types of residences, including town houses, single family homes, mobile homes, condominiums, and co-ops.

Mortgage deduction

This is the biggest cost saver. Homeowners are able to deduct their mortgage from their taxes. For many people this is a substantial deduction, since interest payments can be the largest component of your mortgage payment in the early years of owning a home.

Closing cost deductions

Regardless of whether closing costs were paid for by you or the seller, you are able to claim the points, or origination fees, on your loan.

Property tax is deductible

Real estate property taxes paid on your primary residence home are fully tax deductible. This also includes one vacation home.

Tax deductions on home equity lines

If you have taken out a home equity loan, the interest is tax deductible. This is also an opportunity to move high interest credit card debts to home equity loans, allowing for additional savings.  

Capital gains exclusions

If you have lived in your home for more than two years and decide to sell, up to $250,000 of the profits are excluded from capital gains taxes. This goes to up to $500,000 if you are married. Even if you need to move in three years, while you may not have much (if any equity) and you’re able to sell for what you paid for it, essentially break even, it’s like you rented from yourself!

Always be sure to consult with a tax professional.

Feel free to add your home-ownership financial tips!

 

 

Staying Cool without Sweating the Bill

AC 

With temperatures soaring and the cost of electricity on the rise, it is important to ensure that your next bill doesn’t knock you for a loop.

The United States Energy Information Administration forecasts that the average U.S. residential electricity customer will spend 4.8% (15.3% in New England) more during the upcoming summer months than during the same period last year. Air conditioning is expected to account for up to 43% of your monthly utility bill.

Here are a few ways to cut down on your bill this season

Plant leafy trees   

Most heat that accumulates inside a house comes directly from the sun shining onto the roof or through windows. Planting leafy trees around the building’s exterior will stop the sun from reaching inside your home.

If the trees or shrubs shade your air conditioner, you could boost your AC’s efficiency by up to 10%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Install Solar Screens 

Solar screens, or mesh-like window screens, intercept up to 70% of solar energy before it gets into the house. Window screens are particularly effective on east- and west-facing windows.

Raise the temperature setting while away from home

You can save 5 -15% on your air-conditioning bills by raising the temperature setting on your thermostat when you’re away and don’t need cooling.

Circulate the cool air     

Fans are a remarkably effective way to cool portions of the house your air conditioner may not effectively reach. While they don’t cool the air, but they do move it around. If you have ceiling fans, make sure they are running counter-clockwise to push hot air up and out.

Moving air also helps evaporate moisture on the skin, making you feel cooler.

Maintain or replace your AC    

If you have an AC in good working order, make sure to replace the air filters frequently to make it as efficient as possible and maintain proper air flow. Make sure to keep vents open and clean.

If you replace your older room air conditioner with a newer unit, you could cut your energy costs in half, according to the Department of Energy. Look for a high-energy-efficiency ratio (EER) or an Energy Star-qualified unit. Higher EER ratings mean a more efficient air conditioner.

How do you plan to beat the heat this summer without breaking the bank?

 

 

 

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”

Animal

As those of us who are fortunate enough to live in Central Virginia know, the Shenandoah Valley boasts a rich history and heritage, as well as an amazingly scenic beauty that is home to a diverse animal population. The Wildlife Foundation of Virginia provides a much-needed healthcare service, often on an emergency basis, to the native wildlife residents.

Located in Waynesboro, the Wildlife Center of Virginia, an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine, has rehabilitated wildlife in the area for over thirty years.

Operating out of a 5,700 square-foot building, the Wildlife Center consists of the veterinary clinic, diagnostics laboratory, operating suite, and radiology room, as well as offices for administration and outreach staff. The Center also has an array of outdoor facilities for non-releasable education animals as well as recovering patients, including large flight pens, a bear enclosure, an aviary, deer fawn pens, and more.

Since 1982, the Center has:

Treated more than 65,000 wild animals, representing more than 200 species of native birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Shared the lessons learned from these cases with some 1.5 million school-children and adults across Virginia.

Trained a corps of wildlife medicine practitioners, including veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and volunteer wildlife rehabilitators.

In 2007, the Wildlife Center received the National Conservation Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation as the Conservation Organization of the Year. To see the most recent stories or to donate to this wonderful organization, please visit them at http://wildlifecenter.org/about-center/press-room.

I am proud to say that The Wildlife Center of Virginia is one of the recipients of donated commissions from buyers and sellers I have represented and is a much-appreciated organization that I am proud to help my clients support.

Have you had the opportunity to help save an animal because of this organization? Your comments are always welcome.

Giving Back: Honoring Our Wounded Warriors this Independence Day

Wounded-Warrior1

As some of you, and all of my clients, know I donate a portion of every commission to the charity of the buyer or seller’s choice. A recent buyer asked that I donate the commission from his new home to the Wounded Warriors Project (WWP).

My father proudly served 27 years in the U.S. Army and so it especially warms my heart to contribute to WWP. It is with great pride and honor that we were able to give back to this wonderful cause.

Wounded Warrior Project® serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families.

In addition to the physical wounds, it is estimated as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war including combat-related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 are believed to have experienced a traumatic brain injury while on deployment.

With the support of donors, Wounded Warriors has helped over 100,000 service members, secured $96 billion in entitlement benefits, put over 10,0000 of our wounded warriors back to work, and so much more.

In honor of all of our veterans this Independence Day, I encourage you help make this the most successful generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history. To learn more about this organization, please visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

Also, please be mindful that fireworks can trigger flashbacks, anxiety, and worse in for those who have served in combat and have PTSD. Suggestions include limiting fireworks to the day of the 4th and alerting service members in your neighborhood if you plan to use fireworks.

Military with PTSD offers free signs for veterans stating, ‘Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please be Courteous with Fireworks.’

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July! Feel free to leave your comments below.

Listing on Your Own: Does it Add Up?

FSBO

You see the signs on yards around town – For Sale by Owner. In fact, 10% of home sales were FSBO just a few years ago, down from almost 20%.

It is an intriguing idea. Why not save the thousands of dollars in commission and put it in your pocket? Well, there are many compelling reasons to use a REALTOR.

Visibility

I am sure you are capable of writing an enticing description of your home, BUT recent studies have shown that 88% of buyers begin their search for a home online. A licensed REALTOR will have multiple online ways to showcase your house, greatly increasing exposure to potential purchasers. Forty three percent of all home sales find their home through an internet listing on professional sites.

Paperwork

The number of FSBO homes has dropped in recent years due to the mandatory industry disclosures and regulations. Are you ready to navigate frequent changes and deal with the dramatically increased amount of required documentation?

Negotiations

There are at least five crucial people a real estate agent deals with when selling a home, the majority of whom do not have the seller’s best interests in mind.

            The buyer who wants the lowest possible price

            The buyer’s agent

            The buyer’s attorney (in some areas of the country)

            The home inspection companies

            The appraiser

Bottom Line

The most compelling reason, perhaps, to utilize a REALTOR is this:

            The average house sold by the homeowner sells for $208,000

            The average house sold by an agent sells for $235,000

If FSBO seems an attractive option to you, I urge you to take the time to discuss your home and selling situation with a real estate professional and see what they have to offer before putting up that sign. P.S. – the neighbors hate those signs.

As always, feel free to leave comments or questions below and contact me via email for a consultation or see how I can be of help.

Home Energy Conservation

energy
If you have purchased a home, bought new appliances, windows, or simply shopped at the hardware store of your choosing in the past few years, you have most likely noticed the buzz over energy efficient products and features.

Energy efficiency is important for so many reasons, including conservation, reduced environmental pollution, energy independence, and job creation.
While these are all critical reasons to become more energy efficient, perhaps the biggest question homeowners have is ‘Will it Save Money?

The simple answer is yes; saving energy saves you money. In many cases, household energy bills can be cut by as much as 20-30% by making energy efficiency upgrades. Save money and benefit the environment by taking a few simple actions such as switching to LED bulbs or using ENERGY STAR® appliances.

Buying ENERGY STAR appliances saves up to 30% on electricity bills.
Replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient halogens, CFLs or LEDs saves 30-80% on energy bills.

In addition to larger purchases, there are multiple ways to quickly and easily reduce household energy usage. Some are as simple as unplugging computers and other electronics when not in use. The This Old House website offers 22 painless ways to go green and save your green.

Do you conserve energy in your household? Send in your tips and tricks and let’s start saving energy and money!

Solar Power: Is it the Right Choice for You?

advantages-of-solar-power

Solar power is perhaps one of the most talked about, and certainly one of the most visible, components of energy conservation. Since President Obama took office, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 17.5 GW as of the end of the third quarter of 2014. That’s enough to power the equivalent of 3.5 million average American homes.

While the initial cost of installing solar panels is not insignificant, the monetary and environmental savings are immediate. With the cost of energy on the rise, now is the time to consider if utilizing solar energy is the right choice for you and your household.

In the Valley, there are two groups that are working to make solar panel installation as easy and affordable as possible.

Solar Trail is helping the Crozet community go solar through consultation, assessments, group discounts, and installation. They recently joined Habitat for Humanity and completed a home in Waynesboro, Virginia featuring a solar energy system.

                Sign up for a free Solar Site Assessment by Jun 30th, 2015. 

Solarize Nelson is a grassroots community-based outreach aiming to make going solar easier and more affordable. The nonprofit organization, LEAP, in partnership with the Nelson County, and the UVA Community Credit Union provide education, installations, and financing for local solar projects.

Don’t forget the 30% Federal Tax Credit!

Be sure to check back next week for ideas on going green!

Comments welcome, as always.