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5 ‘Gotta-Dos’ In April for a Worry-Free Summer

by The Schnoor Team

 

Battle bugs before they bite (or sting!) you — and check the attic for problems.

Tackling five simple tasks now gives you a head start on spring.

That leaves you plenty of worry-free time to enjoy the warmer weather.

#1 Tell Insects to Bug Off

Early spring warmth awakens insects, so start to protect your home now. Seal openings in eaves, decks, and other structures to keep out carpenter bees.

Nix mosquitoes by eliminating standing water or treating it with larvicide. Call a pro to destroy wasp and yellow jacket nests, unless you’re experienced enough to engage in a bee battle.

#2 Prep Tools for Lawn Care

Ladies and gentlemen, start your mowers. April’s the month to get this vital piece of equipment ready to roll. An unmaintained machine can cost money, slow you down, and leave your lawn vulnerable to disease. So, before you pull the starter rope:

Replace spark plugs and the air filter.

Change the oil and sharpen blades.

Fill the tank with fresh gasoline.

While you’ve got your gloves on, clean, sharpen, and repair your garden tools. When your azaleas are ready to prune, you’re not going to want to keep them waiting.

#3 Tune Up the Air Conditioner

With flip-flop weather comes another summer tradition: cranking up the air conditioning. Tune your AC in April, before the mercury and service rates rise.

Ask your HVAC company if they have a twice-a-year maintenance plan. Often, you can get discounted rates if you join, and you don’t have to worry about finding someone to do it each spring and fall.

Now you only have to worry about which pair of Havaianas to wear.

#4 Check the Attic (and Garage)

How long has it been since you looked in the attic? Yeah, us too.

April’s the time to inspect this oft-ignored space — before it gets too hot. Look for signs of animal activity (raccoons love attics), and repair or replace damaged insulation or wiring.

Ensure stored items are still secure; tighten container lids and dust covers and replace moth repellants.

While we’re talking storage, how’s the garage? If soccer balls, bikes, and luggage have taken prime parking space, regain control with a storage system. Your car (and your partner) will thank you.

#5 Clean Up Bird Feeders

Besides spreading diseases to birds, dirty bird feeders attract rodents and hurt curb appeal. Gross.

Give your bird feeders a deep clean — not just a rinse-out.

Empty them, take them apart, and wash with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water. Rinse well to remove all traces of bleach, air dry, and refill with seed.

Clean under feeders, too, because moldy or spoiled seed on the ground can make pets sick. Don’t forget the bird bath.

A pretty yard that’s a healthy haven for birds makes a good impression — one that says “this is a well-cared-for home.”


Source: http://pexels.com/search/home organization/

KELLEY WALTERS

is a Southern writer and editor. She focuses on interior design and home improvement at outlets from HGTV to Paintzen. She lives in Italy a month every year, drinking Negronis and writing in internet cafes.

5 Awesomely Easy Landscaping Projects

by The Schnoor Team

 

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:

Lay out a hose in the pattern you want.

Sprinkle flour or powdered chalk to mark the hose pattern.

Use a lawn edger (or spade) to make an incision for the edging.

Tap the edging into the incision with a rubber mallet.

The cost? Mostly your time, and up to $2.50 a square foot for the edging.

#2 Create a Focal Point with a Berm

Berm built in front yardImage: Jon Jenks-Bauer

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:

Flowering bushes, such as azaleas

Evergreens, such as blue spruce

Perennials such as periwinkle

Tall, swaying prairie grasses

Lots of mulch to keep weeds away

The cost?  Usually less than $300, depending on how big you make it, how much soil you need to buy to get to your desired height, and what plants you choose.


#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:

Dig a trench a couple of inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the flagstones.

Fill with pea gravel and/or sand and tamp to make level.

Lay out the flagstones to see their shapes and sizes.

Stack the smaller stones first.

Save the largest, prettiest flagstones for the top layer.

Backfill with gravel.

Choose a stone of consistent thickness. Flagstone might be limestone, sandstone, shale — any rock that splits into slabs.

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:

Allow 3 feet of width for clearance.

Create curves rather than straight lines for a pleasing effect.

Remove sod at least 3 to 4 inches deep to keep grass from coming back.

If you live in an area with heavy rains, opt for large, heavy stones.

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

Stone tree surroundImage: Clean Green Landscape

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:

Tie a rope around the tree, making a loop big enough so that when you pull it taut against the tree, the outer edge of the loop is right where you want the surround to be.

Set your spade inside the loop with the handle plumb — straight up and down. Now, as you move around the tree, the loop of rope keeps the spade exactly the same distance from the base of the tree, creating a nice circle.

Then build the tree surround:

Dig out a circular trench about 8 inches deep and 6 inches wide.

Add a layer of sand.

Set bricks at an angle for a saw-tooth effect or lay them end-to-end.

Fill the surround with 2 to 3 inches of mulch.

The cost? Super cheap. You can do it for less than $25 with commonly-available pavers and stones.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/by-room/yard-patio/easy-landscaping-projects/?site_ref=mosaic

 

Celebrating Earth Day Begins at Home

by The Schnoor Team

Happy Earth Day! There are many ways to green up your life, but many of the most important improvements you can make are right in your own home.

We’ve searched the Internet for offers, contests, and tips for making your home a greener place—not just on Earth Day, but every day.

Recycle bank’s Green Your Home Challenge: Log on to this online challenge, which asks you to complete green actions around your home. The more actions you complete, the more points you earn. You even get bonus points for referring friends to the contest. At the end of the contest, a grand prize winner will win a green home kitchen makeover, complete with brand-new Energy Star-qualified appliances. Smaller prizes will be awarded to 10 first-place winners and 100 second-place winners.

Lowe’s Earth Day giveaway: The home-improvement chain is celebrating Earth Day by giving away 1 million trees on Saturday, April 23. Show up early to get your sapling.

Home builder company giveaway: Today, KB Home street teams, festooned in green, at select locations will be handing out vouchers, which you can redeem for a $10 gift card. Through Sunday, April 24, at KB Home communities, you also can enter a sweepstakes to win a $2,500 cash prize. All Energy Star-qualified homes built by KB Home now come with an energy performance guide that estimates that home’s average monthly energy cost.

Facebook’s A Billion Acts of Green: Pledge to do your part by announcing your green activity of choice through social media. This Facebook page lets you commit to your choice of green acts, such as eliminating toxic cleaning products, changing to CFLs or LEDs for home lighting, and/or getting a home energy audit. 

Earth911 offers tips on spring cleaning your garage: Follow these tips for staying organized, motivated, and eco-conscious while cleaning out a notoriously grungy and not-so-green part of your home. 

Earth911 also has ideas for reusing items in your garden: Learn how to use a few common household items that could easily end up in a landfill to help your garden flourish.

Finally, The Greenists offer a simple tip for greening up all facets of your life: Use less. See how many opportunities you can find around your home to put this simple idea into practice:

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/save-on-utilities/celebrating-earth-day-begins-home/

COURTNEY CRAIG
is an Atlanta-based writer and editor. She believes no effort is too small when it comes to green living, which she tries to keep in mind while renovating her recently purchased first home. 

Spring Cleaning Guide If You Love, Love, LOVE Houseplants

by The Schnoor Team

An outdoor shower and dirt massage will do wonders.

You like having a clean house, and you LOVE having a green house. But a trail of dead leaves on the floor isn’t a good look no matter what.

This plan will help keep your home clean and green, while helping your plants stay healthy, too.

Give Plants a Spring Check-Up

Use a magnifying glass to check for bugs. Look for the marks they leave, like scarring, a cotton-like “fluff,” or webbing. (Hint: The undersides of leaves are a favorite hiding spot.) A few applications of a standard houseplant insecticide should take care of the critters.

Trim yellow and dead leaves. ”Aesthetically, plants look nicer without dead or dying leaves,” says Liza Wheeler, an “interior landscaping artist.” And creating a clean, green slate will make it easier to spot new problems as they arise, she says.

Massage the dirt to break it up. “The soil can get kind of cruddy from watering, so breaking it up makes it look cleaner,” Wheeler says. “It also helps aerate the soil slightly.”

Give them an outdoor shower. A little fresh air and a drizzly spring day — or a gentle spray from the hose — will help plants shake off the dust and cobwebs of winter. Don’t forget to wipe off the saucers and exteriors of pots.

Clean the Areas in Your Home That Your Plants Cover Up

Moisture and dirt can find their way out of pots and onto your floor, countertop, or shelf.

While your plants are drying outside after their shower,

clean the spots where they sit, checking for any damage, which could be caused by a cracked pot. Also clean any walls and baseboards that your greenery hides.

Clean the Windows

Crystal-clear windows allow more sunlight to reach plant leaves, fostering photosynthesis and respiration, freshening your indoor air. Besides clean windows make the entire home feel fresh and bright.

Organize Your Plant Supplies and Tools

Make lovin’ on your plants easier with some simple organizing solutions:

  • Do some organizing and purging to clear space in a cabinet or on a shelf to keep all your supplies together and easily accessible.
  • Stow frequently used items like a spray bottle and fertilizer in an easy-to-carry cleaning caddy.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/cleaning-decluttering/house-plant-care/?site_ref=mosaic

AMY HOWELL HIRT

has written about home design for 13 years. Her work has been published by outlets including “The Home Depot,” “USA Today,” and Yahoo! Homes. She previously served as home and garden writer and columnist for “The Cincinnati Enquirer.”

5 ‘Gotta-Dos’ In April for a Worry-Free Summer

by The Schnoor Team

Battle bugs before they bite (or sting!) you — and check the attic for problems.

#1 Tell Insects to Bug Off

Early spring warmth awakens insects, so start to protect your home now. Seal openings in eaves, decks, and other structures to keep out carpenter bees.

Nix mosquitoes by eliminating standing water or treating it with larvicide. Call a pro to destroy wasp and yellow jacket nests, unless you’re experienced enough to engage in a bee battle.

#2 Prep Tools for Lawn Care

Ladies and gentlemen, start your mowers. April’s the month to get this vital piece of equipment ready to roll. An unmaintained machine can cost money, slow you down, and leave your lawn vulnerable to disease. So, before you pull the starter rope: 

 

Replace spark plugs and the air filter.

Change the oil and sharpen blades.

Fill the tank with fresh gasoline.

While you’ve got your gloves on, clean, sharpen, and repair your garden tools. When your azaleas are ready to prune, you’re not going to want to keep them waiting.

#3 Tune Up the Air Conditioner
   
With flip-flop weather comes another summer tradition: cranking up the air conditioning. Tune your AC in April, before the mercury and service rates rise.

Ask your HVAC company if they have a twice-a-year maintenance plan. Often, you can get discounted rates if you join, and you don’t have to worry about finding someone to do it each spring and fall.

Now you only have to worry about which pair of Havaianas to wear.

#4 Check the Attic (and Garage)

How long has it been since you looked in the attic? Yeah, us too.

April’s the time to inspect this oft-ignored space — before it gets too hot. Look for signs of animal activity (raccoons love attics), and repair or replace damaged insulation or wiring.

Ensure stored items are still secure; tighten container lids and dust covers and replace moth repellants.

While we’re talking storage, how’s the garage? If soccer balls, bikes, and luggage have taken prime parking space, regain control with a storage system. Your car (and your partner) will thank you.

#5 Clean Up Bird Feeders
   
Besides spreading diseases to birds, dirty bird feeders attract rodents and hurt curb appeal. Gross.

Give your bird feeders a deep clean — not just a rinse-out.

Empty them, take them apart, and wash with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water. Rinse well to remove all traces of bleach, air dry, and refill with seed.

Clean under feeders, too, because moldy or spoiled seed on the ground can make pets sick. Don’t forget the bird bath.

A pretty yard that’s a healthy haven for birds makes a good impression — one that says “this is a well-cared-for home.”

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/when-to-spray-for-bugs/

KELLEY WALTERS
is a Southern writer and editor. She focuses on interior design and home improvement at outlets from HGTV to Paintzen. She lives in Italy a month every year, drinking Negronis and writing in internet cafes. 

Spring Cleaning List

by The Schnoor Team

 

Don’t you just love that feeling you get when you check items off a list? Get that adrenaline going with our spring cleaning list.

Spring cleaning isn’t quite the ritual it once was, but there’s still a basic human need to open up and spruce up our homes when the weather gets warmer.

To help you scratch your itch to spring clean, we’ve put together a spring cleaning list for those pieces and parts of your home that are most neglected throughout the year. Plus, we’ve added tips to make the chores easier.

Before you begin: Turn up the tunes with our Spotify spring cleaning playlist. Now you’re ready to tackle your spring cleaning list:

Walls: Dust your walls with your vacuum brush attachment, then clean using an all-purpose cleaner and rinse. Repair your walls by patching holes and dings and touching up paint.

TIP: Don’t use a spray cleaner, which will only leave streaks on your walls. Soak a cloth in cleaner, then wipe. To rinse, follow up with a clean cloth soaked in plain water.

Baseboards: Dust with a microfiber cloth or use your vacuum brush attachment, then spray with an all-purpose cleaner and wipe clean.

TIP: Clean your baseboards after you clean your floors since cleaning floors tends to kick debris up onto baseboards.

Windows: Use a microfiber cloth soaked in a solution of ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ to ½ teaspoon dish soap, and 2 cups water.

TIP: Don’t be tempted to use more vinegar. Too much can make windows appear cloudy.

Window screens: To deep clean your window screens, you should remove them. Place outside on a tarp or other clean waterproof surface, then use a garden hose, an all-purpose cleaner, and a soft brush (gently on the screen) to clean. Repair any torn window screens.

TIP: When removing your screens and hardware, label their location as you go to make re-installing them a breeze.

Shelves: Remove all items from shelves, and dust both the items and the shelves.

TIP: Use museum putty to secure items that tend to fall over, especially if you live in earthquake-prone areas.

Driveway: Use a pressure washer to give your driveway (and garage floor) a good cleaning. It’s amazing what a difference a sparkling driveway makes to your home’s curb appeal.

TIP: Try using Coke or Pepsi to remove oil and grease stains. It’ll take a little elbow grease, too, but the acidity of dark colas helps remove oil stains, as well as other tough stains, such as rust.

Siding: Using warm, soapy water and a soft-bristled brush attached to a long handle, clean your home in sections small enough to keep soapy water from drying before you can rinse.

TIP: Pressure washers can make the job go easier, but if you’re a power-washer newbie, you risk stripping off paint or damaging your siding. Try one of the newer, lighter, electric power washers, which are easier to handle, or stick with the old-fashioned method. Either way, wash from the bottom up to help prevent streaking.

Upholstery: Vacuum your sofas and chairs. Spot clean or steam clean as needed. Freshen dusty pillows, throws, and curtains by tossing them in the dryer on low or no heat. Or, take them outside on a nice day to fluff and bask in the sun as an energy-saving alternative.

TIP: To spot clean, use “whipped detergent” — a mixture of half dish soap and half water. Beat to a froth. Soak a cloth in the mixture, wash the stain, then rinse with a cloth soaked in fresh water.

Ceiling fans: Spray the inside of an old pillowcase with cleaning solution, then slip the bag over each blade and wipe clean.

TIP: Before you go up a ladder to clean your ceiling fan, check to see if the fan is turning in the right direction to keep your home cool. If you feel a breeze underneath the blades when turned on, your fan is set for summer. If you don’t feel a breeze, change the direction.

Air conditioners: Change your air conditioner filter, or clean it by soaking it in a vinegar-and-water solution for 1 to 4 hours (depending on how long it’s been since you last cleaned). Let dry completely before replacing.

TIP: Let the filter dry outside in bright sunshine to kill bacteria and to help remove odors.


Source: https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/spring-cleaning-list/

LARA EDGE

has bought four homes, sold three, and downsized into an urban home less than half the square footage of her old one. She has 20 years of editing experience, most recently at HGTV, which inspired her to do some DIY, and to know when it pays to hire a pro.

How to Spring Clean If You’d Rather Play With Your Kids Instead

by The Schnoor Team

 

The key is to focus on the things your kids touch. Oh, and throw a party.

Ah, the guilt of parenthood: Your kiddos deserve real QT, but also a clean home.

Since there are only so many hours in a day, this spring cleaning plan hits the hot spots that tiny ones tend to find, so your fam can get back to the fun in a clean (if chaotic) space.

Clean Soft Surfaces

Kids are all over carpets, couch cushions, pillows, and duvets, and somehow even curtains (is that … peanut butter?).

These dirt-collecting materials need a deep-cleaning to get rid of allergy-causing dust, food particles, and all the general eww that little hands smear around.

Wash throws, pillow covers, and (most) pillows in the washer. Use a steam cleaner (or hire a pro) for carpet and upholstery. Some curtains may require dry cleaning (always a good idea to check the tag to see what the manufacturer recommends).

Then notice how your whole home feels and smells infinitely cleaner.

Involve Kids in a Purge Party

Kids can accumulate a staggering amount of toys and doodads. Help them sort through what they can donate: They’ll learn the value of decluttering, helping others, and taking care of a house. Also: less stuff.

“The benefit for parents is that they can spend more quality time with their children because they aren’t spending all of their time cleaning and organizing,” says Alyssa Trosclair, a professional organizer with Centsibly Organized.

Hit the Undersides of Tables, Counters

Wipe off the bottoms of high-chair trays, the dining table, and the underside of countertops ledges, where sticky stuff often festers, missed during daily wipe-downs — but easily accessible to tiny hands.

While you’re at it, pull apart any tables with leaves and wipe down the cracks. You may find enough crumbs to make the grossest loaf of bread ever.

Clean Low-Lying Surfaces

The track of a sliding door is a sterile place to stash your pacifier, right? Little ones sure think so.

Cleaning door thresholds, baseboards, as well as the lower portions of doors, walls, and furniture is important when you’ve got crawling and toddling hands in the household. Oh, and don’t forget the floor registers.

Do a Size Check on Winter Clothing

Puffy coats, wool hats, scarves, gloves, and ginormous snow suits practically need their own house. And that’s not counting those 2-inch-thick sweaters. Purge the items you know won’t fit a fast-growing child next year, and clean the rest.

Because when the first big snowfall hits, kids won’t want to wait while you wash their crusty hat from last season.

Don't Forget Door Knobs, Light Switches, Etc.

Light switches, door knobs, cabinet handles, and remotes are some of the germiest places in your house. Cleaning them might be the most consequential to-do on your spring cleaning list.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/cleaning-decluttering/cleaning-with-kids-in-the-house/?site_ref=mosaic

AMY HOWELL HIRT

has written about home design for 13 years. Her work has been published by outlets including “The Home Depot,” “USA Today,” and Yahoo! Homes. She previously served as home and garden writer and columnist for “The Cincinnati Enquirer.”

 

3 Ladera Rd - Santa Fe, NM

by The Schnoor Team

 

Beautiful Kim Dressel custom home! Large single story on 1.75 acres. Lovely front courtyard entrance with brick walkway leading to the front portal with exposed beams & vigas. At the foyer you'll begin to see the fine detail of this home. Saltillo flooring, art niches, exposed beams & vigas throughout. 3 amazing fireplaces for cozy comfort. The great room offers superb sunsets and boasts a huge custom fireplace with hand carved mantel. The kitchen is large with lovely tile counter tops, big island, loads of cabinets another fireplace in the nook, stainless steel appliances, and a built in desk. Imagine cooking and entertaining here! 10 skylights for natural light. The owner's suite is private and has another beautiful kiva fireplace, full bath and large walk in closet. 3 more bedrooms on the other side. The home sits back nicely from the road and offers a monument entrance and nice curved driveway. The south and west portals are all brick with more exposed beams and vigas. Enjoy the views! Radiant heat and split mini systems for your comfort.

Should You Look for Your First House Or Keep Renting?

by The Schnoor Team

5 key questions to ask yourself before buying a home.

Tired of working so hard just to build your landlord’s equity instead of your own? Been dreaming about paint swatches and obsessing over Pinterest projects? Making that leap from renting to owning a home comes with many perks — both financial and emotional. And even though home ownership comes with great responsibility, you might be surprised how achievable it can be.

Certainly, the best time to trade security deposits for a down payment is different for everyone. If you’re thinking about switching from renting to owning, ask yourself these five questions to decide if you’re ready to embark on the home ownership adventure.

1. Are You Financially Prepared?

Let’s not beat around the bush: Buying a home requires a substantial financial commitment.

There’s the down payment, of course. “On average, you want to have a minimum of 5% to 7% of the cost of the home you’re targeting,” says Jason Harriman, a REALTOR® with San Antonio-based Heyl Real Estate Group at Keller Williams Realty. Then, add 3% to 6% more for closing costs, which will vary based on where you live and what taxes your state and city require you to pay.

Tip: Keep in mind if you put down less than 20%, you’ll pay PMI, private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender in case of default. Usually, it’s about $50 to $200 a month. But once you reach a certain threshold on your loan to value ratio, you can cancel PMI

A healthy credit history is also important. Most borrowers will start to qualify for a mortgage with a minimum score of 620 — but the most competitive interest rates will be offered to those with a score of 700 or above. So if you haven’t started practicing those good credit habits yet, it’s time to start developing them.

One of the trickiest hurdles for young adults, so many of whom are lugging around student loan debt, is the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Mortgage companies want borrowers to have a certain level of cash flow each month, and that means taking into account how much you’re paying out to other lenders. Ideally, a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio — how much you pay toward debt each month divided by your gross monthly income — should fall below 36%. (Strictly speaking, a loan is considered able to be paid if the DTI doesn’t exceed 43%.) If yours doesn’t, think about how you can get that debt needle moving in the right direction.

“The best way to do this is to pay off any unsecured debts like credit cards and personal loans, and keep them as close to a zero balance as you can,” says Harriman.

2. Are You Prepared to Make Compromises?

Kathleen Celmins, who manages the personal finance site “Stacking Benjamins,” was financially prepared to manage a mortgage. But once the house hunting began, she quickly realized she was priced out of the homes she had envisioned for herself.

“I originally wanted a single-family home with a yard and in a great neighborhood,” she says. But given her price point, the homes she could afford ended up being in, well, not the greatest neighborhoods. “At one point, we looked at a property that was directly behind a strip club,” she laughs. “We didn’t even go inside.”

After several weeks of searching, Celmins realized she needed to find a middle ground. “In my price range, I could get a not-so-great house in a not-so-great neighborhood. Or, I could get a really cute condominium with a gas range and granite countertops,” she says. “It was something I compromised on. I gave up a yard for having fancy stuff in my condo.”

3. Are You Emotionally Ready?

When it comes to renting, surprises don’t require much emotional investment. The rent goes up? You can move. The fridge is on the fritz? The landlord will send someone over. Home ownership is a bit more hands-on. If the toilet breaks, it’s time to start reading Yelp reviews. And if property taxes unexpectedly rise, it’s on you to appeal or pay up.

“My homeowners association fee doubled in the first year I owned my condominium,” says Celmins. “Then my real estate taxes were reassessed. My mortgage payment went up and I panicked. I didn’t even know that could happen.”

Of course, having the financial flexibility to cover those unexpected things is important, but don’t overlook the importance of having the mental and emotional capability of dealing with them responsibly when they arise. Everything could be peachy for months, and then three maintenance issues might spring up in the same week. Stress management and problem solving skills are home ownership biggies.

4. Will Owning Pay Off in the Long Run?

Depending on the home you choose and where you live, you may pay a lower mortgage than you paid for rent. But even if you don’t, there’s still the financial advantage of building equity in your home, instead of lining your landlord’s pockets.

5. Has Your Lifestyle Outgrown Renting?

Many people find a rental can only take them so far. When you’re ready to start a family, you’re going to want a few extra rooms, and that can get expensive with rising rental rates. A yard also provides a safe place for Junior to play or for a dog to scamper around. And speaking of Fido, the vast majority of renters have trouble finding a place that will allow for their pet. Home ownership can end that stress for good.

Then there are the renovations. If you’re itching to test out your DIY skills and personalize your space, you’re probably ready to own. Landlords who allow property renovations — especially DIY projects — are few and far between.

Buying a first home is a big change — both from a financial and an emotional perspective. Still, for many, home ownership can be one of the most rewarding life choices one can make. “Turns out it’s awesome,” said Celmins. “I love it so much.”

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/buy/first-time-home-buyer/buying-your-first-home/?site_ref=mosaic

ALAINA TWEDDALE

is a freelance writer who writes about money, home, and investing. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, the Huffington Post, and Time.com. When she’s not writing, she’s working with her husband to slowly renovate what seems like every square inch of their home.

 

When It’s Time to Get an Accountant to Do Your Taxes

by The Schnoor Team

 

Do you need a CPA? Or will a regular accountant do?

The federal tax law signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 22, 2017, may affect home ownership tax benefits described in this article. The new law goes into effect for the 2018 tax year and generally doesn’t affect tax filings for the 2017 tax year. Here’s a detailed summary of the changes.

You are soooo dreading doing your taxes this year. Gone are the days when you used to sit down with a glass of wine and fill out your 1040 EZ. Remember that time you finished and hit the “submit” button just as you swallowed the last sip?

Not this year. Unless you want to pay a ton in taxes, you’re going to have to itemize. You did it last year, and it wasn’t too bad. But this year, you did some freelancing. And you moved. And it’s going to take a whole lot more time than one glass of wine. 

Maybe it’s time to hire a pro. But do you really need a certified public accountant? And can you justify the expense?

The Differences Between CPAs and Other Tax Experts

First you need to know there are different types of tax experts. And not all accountants are CPAs. So if you’re thinking that an independent CPA and someone at H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt (or your buddy who studied accounting in college) are pretty much the same, don’t count on it. Basically,

  • An accountant is someone who studied accounting.
  • CPAs are accountants who pass rigorous testing from their state board on a regular basis. The designation usually requires a degree. Not every CPA specializes in taxes.
  • An “enrolled agent,” or EA, is an accountant who has received certification from the IRS. Being an EA doesn’t require a degree like CPA. But it does verify they know tax law.
  • A tax preparer at pop-ups like H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt is trained on tax software to help taxpayers file their returns. They aren’t required to be CPAs or EAs.
  • Only CPAs and EAs can legally represent you if the IRS challenges your return.

There’s nothing wrong with visiting a pop-up preparer like H&R Block if your return isn’t all that complicated, says Cathy Derus, CPA and founder of Brightwater Accounting in Illinois.

“It’s when you start generating other income — perhaps you launch a business or own rental property — [or experience a big financial change] when it makes sense to ask for a little extra help,” she said.

When It's A Good Idea to Hire a Tax Pro

When you buy your first house. Many of the expenses related to buying a home and having a mortgage are deductible. But only if you itemize. And that’s what the experts are best at.

When you move to a new state. There’s a good chance you’ll have to file two state returns for the year you move. And each state is a little bit different in terms of state tax owed — zero in some states, a flat amount in others, and graded by income bracket in most.

When you become a landlord. “When you own investment property, you become a small business owner,” says Tai Stewart, accountant and owner of Saidia Financial Solutions in Houston. That means new records to keep and a new tax form, Schedule E, to complete.

When you buy a vacation property. Especially if you rent it. And especially if it’s in a different state.

When you work from home. There’s a lot of potential money-saving deductions that can vary widely depending on the type of business and how much space it takes up in your home. “If you have a 

Tax Tip

Avoid the onerous record keeping for the regular home office deduction with the simplified method — $5 per sq. ft. up to 300 sq. ft., capped at $1,500. Trade-off: Much less paperwork, but possibly a smaller deduction, too.

home office, you can deduct for the square footage you use for work as well as a portion of your utilities, mortgage interest, and property taxes,” says Stewart.

When you make home improvements. Energy-efficient upgrades like installing a new heating and cooling system, water heater, or insulation may qualify for tax credits. But that can change depending on the year. Same goes for medically necessary home improvements that aren’t paid by your employer or insurance.

When your home’s value is reassessed.The tax man doesn’t always get it right, and sometimes your home may be valued at more than it should be. An expert will be able to pull the data together to appeal it.

So, How Much Do Accountants Cost?

H&R Block will do your taxes for about $150, while a CPA or EA may add $100 or more to that fee ($260 on average last year).

You can definitely DIY all these tax scenarios and save the fees, but with CPAs and EAs, the extra cost may be worth it. Especially if you run your own business. Or you own more than one home. “An accountant can help you analyze your spending choices and even act as a consultant,” says Stewart. Best of all, they’ll be by your side if the tax man ever comes after you. That alone could be priceless if the time comes.

Oh, and one last tip: If you decide you want to hire a CPA or EA, best not to wait until the last minute. You may not find one.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/taxes/do-i-need-an-accountant/

ALAINA TWEDDALE

is a freelance writer who writes about money, home, and investing. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, the Huffington Post, and Time.com. When she’s not writing, she’s working with her husband to slowly renovate what seems like every square inch of their home.

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