Real Estate Information Archive

Blog

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 16

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.

The 7 Worst Habits Homeowners Need to Break Now

by The Schnoor Team

 

Guilty of buying cheap stuff? Pack-ratting? Here’s how to change your ways.

Bad habits are so easy to fall into. But in the end, we know they only make us miserable. 

They’re “the opposite of what makes you happy. They’re what make you miserable,” says M.J. Ryan, author of “Habit Changers: 81 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realize Your Goals.” Especially when they cost you money.

Here are 7 bad habits to break now for a happier you (and a fatter bank account):

#1 Taking Long, Steamy Showers

Spending 20 minutes in the steam may be good for your pores, but it’s also great for mold and mildew. Run the exhaust fan while you’re singing in the shower, squeegee the walls afterward, and scrub that grout every few months.

“Once you let the grout go, it gets worse and worse, and harder and harder to maintain,” says Mylène Merlo, a REALTOR® in San Diego. Grungy grout is a big turnoff for buyers. And redoing it is a pain and expensive to hire out.

#2 Keeping Out the Sun

Shutting your shades on winter days might seem smart. More insulation from the chilly weather, right? Your energy bill disagrees. A sunny window can warm your home and lower your heating costs. And as a bonus, you could see a decrease in seasonal depression.

But your original idea wasn’t totally wrong. Closing those blinds at night can keep your home toasty.

“Bad habits are the opposite of what makes you happy. They're what make you miserable.”

M.J. Ryan, author of "Habit Changers: 81 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realize Your Goals"

#3 Compulsively Buying Bargains

Finding a deal feels so good, but cheaper isn’t always better. In fact, budget buys might cost you more in the long run. For instance, dollar paintbrushes will leave annoying streaks, requiring a costly re-do.

And when it comes to appliances, permit a little splurge — especially if selling your home is on the horizon.

“I always err with going for high-quality appliances,” Merlo says. “There is a noticeable difference between the cheapest and next-cheapest models. And buyers want to see stainless steel.”

#4 Running a Half-Full Dishwasher

You get a gold star for always remembering to start your dishwasher before bed, right? Clean dishes every morning! Go you! Yeah, about that: Your dishwasher wastes water unless it’s completely full.

Dishwashers do save more water than washing by hand (just try telling that to your mom), but most machines use the same amount of water regardless of how many plates you’ve stuffed inside, making a half-empty cycle significantly less efficient. For a household of one or two, once a day can be overkill.

#5 Mega-Mulching

A “tree volcano” might sound like a grand ol’ time, but it’s actually damaging your foliage. Too much mulch suffocates your tree, causing root rot and welcoming invasive insects. 

#6 Going on a Remodeling Rampage

Don’t break out the sledgehammer for a demo three weeks after moving in unless your home needs serious, obvious work. Give yourself time to understand the home’s quirks before renovating.

“You don’t know what your needs are when you first move into a home,” says Merlo. “You should live there for at least six months to figure out the space you need. If you do too much too soon, you’ll regret it.”

For instance, you could dump $15,000 into a kitchen remodel — only to realize the original layout would have worked better for holiday parties. Or you paint a room your favorite color, Wild Plum, only to realize the natural light in the room makes it look more like Rotten Plum. Whoops.

#7 Packratting

You know clutter is bad, but you just… can’t… help it. You had to put that unused exercise bike in the spare room instead of by the road as a freebie because what if? Plus, there’s so much in there already, and decluttering seems like such an insurmountable goal — even though every jam-packed square foot is space you can’t enjoy.

If the task seems impossible, Ryan recommends starting small.

“Do one small thing,” she says. “Clean out a drawer or reorganize your counter, and then you feel the satisfaction of having done it. It becomes easier to do the next small thing.”

Just remember: Breaking habits takes time and a lot of slip-ups. “It’s important to be kind to ourselves when we blow it,” Ryan says. “When we create new habits, we’re building new wiring, but it’s not like the old wiring disappears. Don’t turn goof-ups into give-ups.”

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/money-saving-diy/preventive-home-maintenance/

JAMIE WIEBE

is a writer and editor with a focus on home improvement and design. Previously, she worked as a web editor for “House Beautiful,” “ELLE Decor,” and “Veranda.”

3 Must vs. Lust Buying Tips to Avoid Overspending

by The Schnoor Team

 

3 Must vs. Lust Buying Tips to Avoid Overspending

The super-simple (and fun) way to separate needs from nice-to-haves.

When you embark on the home-buying process, your heart is filled with all the dreams in the world. It’s really easy to get caught up in the “I have to have’s”

Make a List of Wants

Start by making a list of everything you want in your house. If you love it, jot it down. Have your spouse or partner do the same thing in a separate document.

Once you and your partner have everything down, start sorting your wants by order of importance. What’s your No. 1? Do you need large windows? How about a sunroom? Double sinks in the master? You get the idea. 

Come up with your top 10, and then compare your list to your partner’s top 10. What things appear on both lists? Those items should carry more weight because you both want them in your home.

Highlight the Important Stuff

The things that can’t be changed without a massive investment. I’m talking things like square footage, window size, and number of bedrooms. This is your heavyweight list. These things should take priority in your home-buying decision.

Features that are purely cosmetic, especially things that can be DIYed. These items should be moved way down the list or taken off entirely. Backsplash tile, paint color, and lighting can all be changed inexpensively and after you’re living in your house. You don’t want to pass up a fantastic house because you can’t see past a red accent wall.

At this point, you should have a combined list of 10 or so items. 

My last tip is to figure out the priority of each one of the items. Ask yourself, would you be willing to give up item number 4, say, to have item number 5? Would you be willing to give up hardwood floors for a home theater room? This is the hardest question to answer, but it’ll put your must-haves in the right order.

I always picture this activity like an eye appointment when the doctor says, “1 or 2? OK, now 2 or 3?” Do that with your list! Pool or flooring? Flooring or yard size? Yard size or square footage? Make sense?

Bring Your List When You Look at a Home

As you’re out looking at houses, keep your list handy. Maybe you’re not willing to give up hardwood floors for a jetted tub, but would you be willing to compromise for a jetted tub and extra square footage? Refer back to your must-haves list often. It’s easy to get distracted.

Here’s a quick checklist that I use when searching for a home. If you answer “yes” to all of these, then a “want” may be worth the splurge — that is, if you can be sure that you’ll be able to afford the feature (in terms of your monthly mortgage payments and living expenses).

Is it on both of your lists?

Is it something that’ll be extremely expensive and difficult to change or add?

Would you be willing to sacrifice something else to have it?

Would you feel like your house would be incomplete without it?

Happy house hunting!

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/buy/house-hunting/must-have-items/?site_ref=mosaic

MANDI GUBLER

is the creator of Vintage Revivals, a DIY / shelter blog unlike any other. She loves to share her thrift store finds and inspire her fans with DIY projects.

 

 

 

Umbrella Insurance and Homeowner Liability

by The Schnoor Team

Umbrella Insurance and Homeowner Liability

Umbrella insurance offers added homeowner liability protection that kicks in after homeowners insurance reaches its coverage limits.

Accidents happen at home: A visitor trips on your front steps, or a neighbor cleaning your gutters falls off a ladder. As the property owner, you can be held legally liable. Standard homeowners insurance typically offers some liability coverage, but it might not be enough to cover a major claim.

Umbrella insurance provides additional homeowner liability protection that kicks in after your homeowners insurance hits its policy limit. A lawsuit, even one seemingly unrelated to homeownership, can wipe out your net worth—including your home. That’s why protecting yourself against lawsuits is an essential part of protecting your home.

Understand homeowner liability

Liability insurance covers you in the event you get hit with a lawsuit. Some of the liability risks faced by homeowners are more apparent than others. For example, a house guest takes a tumble after slipping on your hardwood floors, or a neighbor’s kid falls off a swing in your backyard. Insurance agents call swimming pools, jungle gyms, and trampolines “attractive nuisances” because they draw children unable to appreciate their dangers.

If someone gets hurt on your property—whether inside or outside, and whether you think it’s your fault or not—you can get sued. Travelers, an insurance provider, says you could even face a lawsuit if your dog bites someone. If your pet or a member of your residence causes accidental damage to the property of others, you’re liable too. Automobile accidents can also lead to lawsuits.

In addition, you can face lawsuits from personal injury, which includes a wide variety of problems, such as emotional distress or sickness or disease. You can be sued for malicious prosecution, humiliation, libel, slander, defamation of character, or invasion of privacy. Although many of these scenarios seem to have little to do with homeownership, the end result of an unfavorable lawsuit judgment can be the loss of your home.

Brian Mittman, an attorney in White Plains, N.Y., says the reality is that anyone can be sued for anything at any time, though it’s less likely that juries will side with a plaintiff where there’s no obvious fault on the homeowner’s part. Some states also have so-called homestead laws that can protect homes from creditors. Consult an attorney.

Start with your homeowner policy

Homeowners are more likely to see a lawsuit if there’s a foreseeable incident with knowledge of a defect. Consider a homeowner whose front steps have loose bricks. A lawyer could argue the homeowner should’ve known about the problem and fixed it. This is an example of what could be a low-payoff situation—a trip to the emergency room and a sprained ankle that heals quickly. Many lawyers would pass on the case.

On the other hand, a visitor’s tumble down rickety basement steps could lead to a long hospital stay and a permanent limp. The homeowner could be found liable and have to pay, even if the injured party has medical and disability insurance. An injured party’s own insurance situation doesn’t necessarily let the homeowner off the hook.

The good news is a limited amount of liability insurance is standard in most homeowner policies. Although terms can vary, $300,000 is typical. Check your policy. For about another $300 a year, you should be able to add $1 million of liability coverage to your homeowners insurance.

Umbrella insurance adds layer of protection

Many financial advisers prefer umbrella insurance over increasing the liability coverage of a homeowner policy because the umbrella insurance applies to your vehicles as well as your residence. Remember, umbrella insurance is an overarching policy that covers liability issues at home and in the car. This is critical since you could lose all of your assets including your home as a result of a major lawsuit stemming from an auto accident.

Umbrella insurance, in general, runs about $300 a year for $1 million of coverage. Premiums can vary greatly depending on a host of factors including your credit and claims history, where you live, and who’s covered. In most cases you can get a policy issued in a couple of hours. The process is faster, and you might receive a multi-policy discount, if you get umbrella insurance through your current insurer.

Keep in mind that umbrella policies by nature come with very high deductibles. They only pay off after a homeowner’s other liability coverage is exhausted. If you use the same insurer, it’s easier to coordinate claims and ensure your homeowners insurance dovetails with your umbrella’s deductible.

Umbrella coverage has its limits

Generally, anything business-related isn’t covered by umbrella insurance. Bob Gustafson, a certified financial planner in Marlborough, Mass., notes that people connected with a home-based business aren’t covered under typical homeowner or umbrella policies. However, many homeowner policies will allow the purchase of a rider for small businesses, which will increase your annual premium between $300 and $400.

Businesses you work with and de facto employees, such as domestic workers, also are unlikely to be covered. Riders are available for full-time domestic workers; occasional house cleaners and babysitters should be covered under a standard policy. Major outside contractors, such as roofers, for example, should have their own insurance. Ask for proof before you hire any contractor.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/home-insurance/umbrella-insurance-and-homeowner-liability/?site_ref=mosaic

RICHARD KORETO

is a freelance writer. He’s been editor of many financial magazines and is the author of “Run It Like a Business,” a practice management book for financial planners. He and his wife own a pre-Civil War house in New York.

Are You Getting the Home Tax Deductions You’re Entitled To?

by The Schnoor Team

Are You Getting the Home Tax Deductions You’re Entitled To?

Here are the tax tips you need to get a jump on your returns.

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. In 2018, HouseLogic will be providing information on the tax provisions affecting home ownership. In the meantime, here’s a detailed summary of the changes.

Owning a home can pay off at tax time.

If you’re eligible, take advantage of these home ownership-related tax deductions and strategies to lower your tax bill:

Mortgage Interest Deduction

To claim the mortgage interest deduction, you must itemize using Schedule A, and your mortgage must be secured by your primary or second home. That home can be a house, trailer, or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.

Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or substantially improve your home.

If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit, and the interest is still deductible.

If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan. However, this rule changes for 2018, and the interest on such loans will no longer be deductible unless the proceeds are used to substantially improve a home.

Beginning with tax year 2018, the mortgage interest deduction cap is $750,000, and fewer people will likely itemize (and therefore take the MID) because of the increase in the standard deduction. 

Prepaid Interest Deduction

Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is generally 100% deductible in the year you paid it along with other mortgage interest. However, you must itemize to take it.

If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year.

But if you refinance to get a better rate or shorten the length of your mortgage, or to use the money for something other than

home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the life of your mortgage. Say you refinance into a 10-year mortgage and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.

So what happens if you refinance again down the road?

Example: Three years after your first refinance, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refinance. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the life of the loan.

Home mortgage interest and points are reported on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040.

Your lender will send you a Form 1098 that lists the points you paid. If not, you should be able to find the amount listed on the closing docs you got when you purchased your home or refinanced.

Property Tax Deduction

Again, for 2017, you can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay if you itemize, without limit. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.

For tax year 2018 and beyond, you can deduct local and state taxes, including property taxes, up to $10,000 combined. This again depends on whether you itemize, which many homeowners will not be able to do in 2018 due to a large increase in the standard deduction.

If you bought a house this year, check your closing documents to see if you paid any property taxes when you purchased your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.  

Vacation Home Tax Deductions

The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes are complicated. Do yourself a favor and keep good records about how and when you use your vacation home.

If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A.

Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Your expenses are deducted on Schedule E.

Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days you rent it and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and allocate them based on how often you used and how often you rented the house.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/taxes/home-tax-deductions/?site_ref=mosaic

DONA DEZUBE

has been writing about real estate for more than two decades. She lives in a suburban Baltimore Midcentury modest home on a 3-acre lot shared with possums, raccoons, foxes, a herd of deer, and her blue-tick hound. 

Student Loan Debt Delays Homeownership 7 Years

by The Schnoor Team

Side gigs or roomies can help shave years off your debt. Lenders like that.

There’s finally proof to what we’ve all long suspected — that student loan debt is delaying first-time home ownership. In fact, a recent study from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and the nonprofit American Student Assistance, reveals that this debt can delay home ownership for 7 years (or more).

Perhaps even more concerning is that more than 50% of respondents are paying off over $40,000 in balances, with some owing more than they earn in a year.

So, how can first-time homebuyers break into the market against such tough circumstances? There’s really only one answer: prioritizing student loan repayment above everything else. Not only will repaying balances save money on interest and allow buyers to save more, but paying off debt also lowers debt-to-income ratio (probably, the No. 1 metric lenders use to determine how much you’ll qualify for).

Below are a handful of ways to earn more so you can owe less:

Earn Money on the Side

In the current “gig economy,” there’s no end to the ways people can earn extra money. The options are varied and (seemingly) endless: from driving for a ride-sharing service, to shopping for personal groceries, to freelance writing or taking surveys online, to opening up your own online store.
And even if it’s a small amount each month, an extra $100 or $200 a month can make a big difference when it comes to student loan repayment.

Using this extra-payment calculator we can see the math. If someone owes $35,000 in student loans at 5% interest, adding $200 each month to the existing $383 standard payment shaves 3.8 years off the life of the loan while saving $3,781 in interest. 

Maximize Earnings at a Full-Time Job

Focusing on ways to earn more in your 9-to-5 job can profoundly impact your finances. Consider researching comparable pay for your role at other companies, list your accomplishments, and don’t be afraid to have a sit down with your manager to ask for more money. Increasing your monthly take-home amount ups the amount you can save or use toward debt repayment, so it’s important to try and maximize take-home earnings when possible.

More math: Say someone makes $40,000 annually and receives a 5% raise, or $2,000 annually. Broken out each month, this is $166 (before taxes). Using the same numbers above, adding $166 to a monthly payment saves 3.4 years on the life of the loan.

Put Any Windfall Cash Toward Student Loan Debt

Receive a bonus at work? Large cash gift from a relative? Tax refund? This money could be put to great use paying off student loan debt. And while it may be hard not to spend it on something nice for yourself, make sure you stay within bounds and put the rest to your outstanding balances.

For example, let’s say you work hard and receive a $2,000 annual bonus at work. You resist the temptation to spend this money, and instead make a lump-sum payment toward your student loans. Even if you don’t pay anything else toward the loan on a monthly basis, this one-time payment shaves 8 months off the debt repayment timeline on a $35,000 student loan at 5% interest. Imagine if you did this every time you received unexpected extra cash.

Consider Refinancing/Consolidation If You Qualify

Refinancing and debt consolidation may intimidate those who aren’t educated on what these terms mean, but those with money savvy know these can be strong tools to add to your debt pay off tool belt.

Consolidation is combining multiple loans into one at a new interest rate. Consolidation may nab borrowers a lower monthly payment, or lock in a fixed rate if they’ve been in a variable rate loan, but may net a longer repayment term. Consolidation is available for both private and federal student loans. 

If the government consolidates your federal loans, they’ll give you a new interest rate that is a weighted average of all the interest rates of all the loans you’re trying to consolidate. During a private loan consolidation, a lender will look at your credit score and give you a brand new interest rate. 

Refinancing is using one loan (at a lower interest rate) to pay off multiple student loans, but it is only offered by private lenders. By applying for a new loan to pay off the others, you’ll get a lower monthly payment, lower interest rate, and have only one payment to worry about.  But, with private refinancing, you forgo federal benefits like repayment plans based on income and loan forgiveness. Weigh the pros and cons of each option before choosing the one that’s right for you.

Both of these are available to borrowers if they have good credit. Plus, they can offer significant financial benefits. For example, by refinancing a $35,000 student loan from 7.6%  o 4.45% interest, borrowers can free up an additional $55 in their budget to save for a home down payment.

Using the steps above, student loan borrowers can make home ownership a reality, provided they’re willing to sacrifice and play it money smart for a few years.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/financing/student-loan-repayment-strategies/

LAUREN BOWLING
is the award-winning blogger and editor behind personal finance site “Financial Best Life” and author of “The Millennial Homeowner: A Guide to Successfully Navigating Your First Home Purchase.” She’s contributed to such financial sites as “CNNMoney” and “Forbes.”

5 Doable DIY Projects To Send Your Home Equity Soaring

by The Schnoor Team

5 Doable DIY Projects To Send Your Home Equity Soaring

 

A new front door has the highest ROI, not to mention the boost in curb appeal.

 

You’re going to save money with DIY home improvement projects. Sure, everybody knows that.

 

But did you know how much? Cut professionals out of the equation and you can save half the cost of a project — or more. 

 

What’s more, you get a great return on your investment. Meaning, the financial value you get out of a DIY project is much more than what you put in.

 

Here’s a rundown of some top money-saving projects, using cost and recovered costs data from the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

 

#1 New Steel Front Door

 

Few replacement projects have as much upside as a new steel entry door. Not only will you recover about 75% of the cost of having an entry door professionally installed, but you’ll spruce up your curb appeal big time. Want proof? Ninety-six percent of homeowners responding to the “Remodeling Impact Report” say they are happy or satisfied with their new front door.  

 

Of course, you’ll save even more if you tackle this project yourself. Know your door parts (jambs, threshold, stops) before digging in. You’ll be putting in a pre-hung door that includes jambs, so the old stuff has to come out. If you can, preserve the old casing (trim) that goes around the door. Otherwise, plan to buy new casing.

 

This is a good one to have a friend or spouse lend a hand. It’ll take six to eight hours if it’s your first time. Remember the three-legged mantra of door installation: Plumb, level, square.

 

#2 New Garage Door

 

Tired of looking at that big blank billboard every time you pull into your driveway? Change out your old garage door for a spiffy new steel model and the whole neighborhood will thank you. Save some cash by keeping the same motorized 

 

A steel garage door comes in four panels that are relatively lightweight but awkward — get a friend to lend a hand and you’ll have this project done in a day. Then stand back and admire along with 95% of homeowners in the “Remodeling Impact Report” who said they were happy or satisfied with their new garage door. 

 

 

#3 New Vinyl Windows

 

If you want to replace four or more windows, or a second-story window, then hire the work out. Being up on a ladder with an object as bulky as a window is no place for a non-professional. Pros bring scaffolding, which takes time to set up but ultimately makes the work faster and safer.

Replacing one, two, or maybe three first-story windows is a good DIY job. Anything more and the pros will get the job done with better efficiency in terms of time and hassle.

 

If you’ve measured your rough opening correctly and bought the right window, then one window should take you three to four hours. You’ll get faster with subsequent windows.

 

#4 New Wood Flooring

 

Few projects are as satisfying, while recovering such a high percentage of your investment, as new wood flooring. According to the “Remodeling Impact Report,” 96% of homeowners were happy or satisfied with their professionally installed hardwood floors. Combine that with a 91% return on your investment, and you’ll likely be a very happy homeowner.

For the DIYer, installing hardwood flooring is a bit labor intensive, but the techniques are fairly easy to master. Once you get the hang of it, installing prefinished hardwood flooring should go smoothly.

 

#5 Insulation Upgrade

 

OK, maybe it’s not the sexiest project. After all, it’s tucked out of sight in your attic. But you can feel it with increased comfort, and see the savings on your energy bill. Those are big pluses. 

Upgrading an under-insulated attic space can save you up to 50% per year in energy costs. With a pro cost of $2,100, it’ll take at least a couple of years to pay off your investment with savings. Do it yourself, however, and you’ll only spend about $700 for enough 10-inch-thick fiberglass batt insulation to cover a 20-foot-by-40-foot attic space. You’ll pocket the savings much sooner. 

 

It’s also an awkward project, it can be messy, and you’ll need to bundle up behind protective clothing. However, insulating your attic is a low-skill project that most DIYers can pull off. Just be sure not to stick your foot through the drywall under the attic floor joists!

 

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/money-saving-diy/diy-how-much-do-you-save/?site_ref=mosaic

 

JOHN RIHA

 

has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

 

Organize Your Home by Feb. 1 in Less Than an Hour a Day

by The Schnoor Team

 

Did you ever notice that your self-improvement pacts with yourself are action oriented? Walk 10,000 steps a day. Fix that leaky faucet. Register for VolunteerMatch.

But “get organized”? It’s a goal so broad that just trying to figure out what action to take makes you wonder what you were thinking in the first place. It’s like you need an organizing plan for your organizing.

Ta da!

Here it is. Follow these steps, spending less than an hour day (sometimes just a few moments), to a better organized home:

1. Do That Project                                                                                                                                    

"What about your space is making you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed?" asks Amy Trager, a professional organizer in Chicago. Is it the paperwork disaster in your office? The pile of clothes teetering on your dresser? Or that mess that surrounds your doorway? Start with what’s annoying you, she says. One hour on that task will get your organizing engine revving.

2. Create a "Go Away" Box                                                                                                                           

Put anything you’re planning to donate in it (or give to a friend, or take to recycle). And keep it by the door so you can easily grab it when you’re leaving.

3. Deal With the Decorations                                                                                                         

Hallelujah — the holidays are over! When you’re putting away your décor, donate anything you didn’t bring out last season, and separate decorations by holiday. No need to dig through your St. Patty’s clovers when you’re searching for a menorah.

4. Create a System for Your Entryway                                                                                                     

Set up a “command center” so your front door doesn’t become a lawless accessories arena, especially during winter months. Add hooks for coats, bins for shoes, and a mail sorter if you need it. (Remember to keep a place for your “go away” box).

5. Wrangle Your Pet Supplies                                                                                                         

Minimize the time spent scrambling when your pup is desperate for a walk or eager for a meal. Hang hooks and cubbies near the door and keep leashes, kibble, bowls, and toys in one convenient spot.

6. Organize Your Spices                                                                                                                     

Arrange your herbs and spices alphabetically, by cuisine, or by brand — whatever makes them easier to find when you’re in the middle of your noodle stir fry.

7. Pare Down Your Utensils                                                                                                                 

You’ve accumulated several dozen kitchen utensils in your culinary career: can openers, microplanes, four (what?!) wine openers. Pare down the collection and use drawer dividers to keep the remainders in order.

8. Reconfigure Your Pots and Pans                                                                                                           

Stop digging around in your shelves for the oversized, cast-iron skillet. Donate the pots and pans you hardly use, and install cupboard organizers to help manage the rest.

9. Throw Away Expired Foods                                                                                                                 

You never use Worcestershire sauce — except that one time. Go through your refrigerator and pantry and ditch or donate anything past its prime.

10. Stack Your Pantry Staples                                                                                                                Make better use of your pantry by sorting through your staple dry goods — think flour, sugar, pasta, oatmeal, dry beans — and putting them in airtight, stackable containers. You’ll free up a ton of space, too.

11. Downsize Your Kitchen Gadgets

You had noble intentions when you purchased that spiralizer. (Zucchini noodles every night, right?) Give those space hogs to someone else with lofty dreams.

12. Say No to Coffee Mug Over-Saturation

Every time you lose a sock, a new coffee mug appears. Keep one or two mugs for every coffee or tea drinker, and donate the rest.

13. Sort Your Food Storage Containers

No singles allowed. Toss any tops or bottoms that have no mates.

14. Reassess Your Display Shelves

Shelves crammed with knickknacks, books you’ll never read, and stuff you somehow accumulated are just a waste of space. Donate books to the library, discard the junk, and arrange what’s left in a way that pleases you.

15. Deal With Your Cables

With a Roku, PlayStation, DVD player, and a cable box, it’s no surprise your entertainment center is a mess. Create ID tags for each plug from bread tags or cable ties, and bundle the clutter together with velcro strips.

16. Put Clothes on New Hangers

Switch your clothes over to the slimmer, grabbier hangers. They use less space and keep your clothes from sliding down to your closet floor. As you do this, discard the clothes you never wear.

17. Corral Your Accessories

Belts, scarves, purses, hats — all the accessories that don’t have a drawer or spot in the closet can end up everywhere. Buy an accessories hanger or install a simple series of hooks to give your wardrobe’s smallest members a home.

18. Purge Under the Bed

Under-bed storage is ideal for out-of-season clothing. But when out-of-season becomes out-of-sight and out-of-mind, clear out those clothes you’ll never wear again from this precious storage space.

19. Declutter Your Desk

When your workspace is swimming with collectibles, staplers, Post-its, and more, paring down can keep you focused when it’s time to hunker down.

20. Shred Old Paperwork

Not every form, statement, and tax record needs to stay in your filing cabinet forever. Check out this list to make sure you’re not wasting space. Shred the rest to ward off identity thieves.

21. Tidy Your Files

Now that you’ve shredded the paperwork you don’t need, tidy up your files by organizing them and labeling them clearly. Colorful folders can help organize by theme (home stuff, tax stuff, work stuff, etc.).

22. Get Rid of Mystery Electronics

Admit it. You’ve got a drawer where black mystery cords, chargers, and oddball electronic bits go to die. Free that drawer up for better uses, or at least get rid of the ones you know for sure are “dead.”

23. Pare Down Your Personal Care Stuff                                                                                             

Your intentions were honorable when you bought that curl-enhancing shampoo — but it expired two years ago, and you haven’t used it since. Throw away any expired potions, salves, hair products, and medicines.

24. Tackle Under-the-Sink Storage                                                                                                         

Clean everything out. You’ll be amazed at what you find (like those Magic Erasers you could never find). Then put back everything you’re keeping in bins you can easily pull out so nothing gets lost again.

25. Hang a Shelf                                                                                                                                         

Wall storage is so often overlooked. Find a spot in your home where a shelf would solve a problem, and hang it. Maybe it’s for some toiletries in the bathroom, or laundry supplies, or for your kid’s stuffed toys.

26. Reduce Your Towels and Linens                                                                                                   

There are the towels you use — and the stack of towels you never use. Donate them to the animal shelter. Those torn pillowcases? Convert to rags or toss. Same for napkins, dishtowels, pot holders, etc.

27. Hang a Shoe Organizer                                                                                                               

Hanging shoe organizers can solve a ton of storage problems beyond the obvious. They can store scarves, mittens, cleaning supplies, craft supplies. You can even cut them to custom-fit inside a cabinet door.

28. Organize Your Junk Drawer for Good                                                                                         

There’s no shame in a junk drawer — but why not organize it? Dump the whole thing on one surface and sort everything into piles. Use drawer dividers to keep each pile in its own space.

29. Store Your Tools the Right Way                                                                                                   

Finding the right Phillips-head screwdriver to put together that cute IKEA bookshelf shouldn’t be so hard. Track down your hammers and screwdrivers, and arrange them in one easy-to-access spot, such as a pegboard.

30. Plan for the Future                                                                                                                               

See how much you’ve accomplished! Take a look around your newly organized home, making note of any spaces you missed. Then dream a bit about your next home project. Maybe paint that dining room finally?

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/storage-ideas-hacks/how-to-organize-your-home/


 

5 Suck-It-Up Questions to Ask Before Spurning a Low-Ball Offer

by The Schnoor Team

 

Do you need a reality check, or is the buyer out of line? Here’s how to tell.

You’ve invested a great deal in this house. So when the time comes to put it on the market, you expect potential buyers to recognize its true value. But sometimes, you get an offer that’s so far below your asking price it feels like someone pitched a baseball straight at your stomach.

Should you simply walk away from such a number? Or does it make sense to pause and weigh your options? Here are some points to consider before you decide:

#1 Is It Really Low-Ball, or Just Lower Than You Wanted?

Some agents define a low-ball offer as 25% or more below list. In areas where there’s a shortage of available homes, that figure may drop to 20%.

“What defines low-ball varies from market to market and even submarket to submarket, but certainly from price range to price range,” says Steve McLinden of Bankrate.com. In other words, it’s likely that an offer of $80,000 on a $100,000 home will be more quickly dismissed than a $1.6 million offer on a $2 million home, he says.

#2 Should You Immediately Reject a Low-Ball Bid?

Although your feelings may be hurt, giving in to the drama monster won’t get your house sold. “When the low-ball offer comes in it can be upsetting, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Bill Gassett of RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton, Mass. “The fact that someone wants to buy your home is a good thing and you should deal with every offer — unless it’s just completely ridiculous.”

What constitutes a “ridiculous” offer? Anything significantly less than 25% below your list price should probably trigger warning bells. However, it pays to rely on your agent’s expertise to help you decide on the right response.

Countering, rather than ignoring, a low offer is often the smartest strategy. A low-ball offer “shows buyers you’re willing to work with them,” says Eric Snyder of Douglas Elliman in Boca Raton, Fla. After all, he reasons, “it’s not about where buyers start, it’s where they end up.”

And you’ll never have a chance of getting to that final number if you allow your emotions to cloud your judgment.


#3 Is Your Price Too High?

Sometimes when a seller receives one — or more — low-ball bids, it may be because the asking price for the home is out of step with the market.

Before you set a price, your agent will provide you with comps – for-sale listings of similar properties in the area —  along with a pricing recommendation. Your best bet is pricing that reflects the comps. If you decide to “test” a higher price, you might have to tweak your price to invite more reasonable offers, which is just going to delay the sale.

#4 What Do You Really Need?

There may be factors involved in selling your home that are more important to you than price. Perhaps you need to sell quickly because you’re buying another home. Maybe an all-cash deal would make your life a lot easier. There are a number of potential deal sweeteners that a potential buyer could provide that may make a low offer more appealing. These include:

  • A preferred closing date
  • A solid mortgage pre-approval letter from the buyer (not just a pre-qualification)
  • A larger down payment
  • Fewer inspection contingencies

#5 Will You Look Too Desperate?

Don’t worry about how your willingness to entertain a low-ball offer is perceived. What matters most is the result, says McLinden.

“Some sellers get so wrapped up in righteous indignation following an ‘insulting’ offer that they tell their agent to refuse all further communication from the offender,” he says. And while that may soothe your wounded ego, it won’t help sell your house.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (October 7-15)

by The Schnoor Team

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a world-renowned attraction and destination for kids of all ages. For more than four decades, the first week in October brings the smells of roasting chilies and the beautiful, magical moving picture show of hot air balloons sailing silently through the crisp fall air. Guests from all over the world come to Albuquerque to celebrate ballooning. Literally, hundreds of balloons will be taking flight from the Balloon Fiesta Park this year. You won't want to miss this city-wide celebration! 

When:  October 7, 2017 - October 15, 2017

Where: Balloon Fiesta Park

See more details in the official Program below!

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 16

©2017 BHH Affiliates, LLC. An independently owned and operated franchisee of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.® Information is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed. This is not a solicitation if you are currently working with a real estate broker. Equal Housing Opportunity