Make the Most of Home Ownership Tax Breaks

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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

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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?

 

 

 

Giving Back: Honoring Our Wounded Warriors this Independence Day

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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.

Home Energy Conservation

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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?

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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.

Remembering the Meaning of Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is more than a day marking the unofficial start of summer. Memorial Day is, first and foremost, a time to pay tribute to the men and women who have proudly and bravely served our country.

Whether grilling on the BBQ, swimming in the just-opened pools, or simply relaxing and enjoying the weather and a day off, please remember our fallen heroes who have insured that future generations of Americans will continue to enjoy the privilege of freedom.

At 3 p.m. today, please pause with Americans across the country and the world for one minute during the National Moment of Remembrance. As a small token of gratitude to the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces and paid the ultimate price, we are asked “to voluntarily and informally observe in our own ways a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever [we] are doing for a moment of silence or listening to the playing of ‘Taps.’”

The soldiers we honor this Memorial Day are all those who have served this nation from its founding 239 years ago, as well the over 1.4 million who defend us now.

Please allow me to thank you Service Members and wish you a wonderful weekend. May we never forget the courageous men and women who have served and sacrificed so much in past wars so we could enjoy the freedoms and liberties we hold dear, just as we honor those who stand duty today to keep us safe.

Please feel free to leave a tribute to a Service Member, personally known or not, in the comments below. 

The Cost of Waiting to Buy

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Whether you are a first time buyer or looking to move up to your next home, you should consider the housing experts’ projections in two major areas – home prices and mortgage rates.

The housing market is still in the early stages of recovery, and a rise in interest rates can make a big difference in your monthly mortgage payment. Even a very modest increase from 3.9% to 4.5% on a $200,000 home will increase monthly payments more than $70.  

Most real estate analysts concur that by the end of the year there will be a 4% appreciation in home values and an increase of a full point in interest rates. While interest rates will still be low, now is a great time to take that leap and invest in your future.

If you have been thinking about buying a home, now is the time; supply is high, interest rates are low, and housing prices are lower than they are expected to be in the upcoming months. As more homes are purchased, supply decreases, so there is the potential for home prices to continue to increase.

While it is often wise to wait and find the best possible deal (especially with large purchases), it is not necessarily prudent in the current real estate market. I encourage potential home buyers to be decisive and to act quickly when you find the property you have been looking for.

Below is a chart that puts a price tag on the cost of waiting just eight months.

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Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments below. If you have any questions, please contact me directly and I will be happy to discuss your particular housing concerns and needs.