It’s Tax Time

Whether you’re doing your own income tax return or having them done professionally, you need to gather information to determine if any portion of your home ownership is deductible.  Here are a few questions to help identify if you may be eligible for home ownership deductions:

Did you refinance your home this year?  If YES, points may be taken as an interest charge.

Do you itemize deductions or use standard deduction?  Your best bet is to compare the mortgage interest, property taxes, and other eligible deductions to see which will provide you with the largest deduction.

Are you paying mortgage insurance premiums with your payment? If YES, you may be able to use this as a deduction.

Did you purchase a home in 2014?  If YES, look at your HUD-1 statement from closing for any possible deductions. An example:  If the seller paid points on your behalf, you may be able to deduct them. If you need another copy of your HUD-1, contact your real estate professional.

Did you purchase or install any qualified residential energy efficiency property or improvements in 2014?  If YES, you may be eligible for tax credits.

Do you have a designated exclusive area in your home for a home office?  If YES, you may be able to deduct a pro-rata share of home expenses such as insurance, utilities, phone, and other expenses.

For more information, visit:

2014 IRS Home Deductions –  www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p936.pdf

2014 Home Mortgage Interest Deductions – www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040sca.pdf 

 

8 Luxury Home Modifications That May Reduce The Value Of Your Home

According to CNN Money, “When it comes to adding value to a high-end home, an amenity with a large price tag doesn’t guarantee a return on investment. Sometimes, a customized modification can actually reduce a home’s value”.

Here are some examples of over-the-top customizations that might not be worth the money:

Ornate Landscaping – Fancy shaped bushes, shrubs and trees can create an overwhelming appearance for a buyer.  Instead, a clean cut yard with neat and simple landscaping and less fuss will be more attractive to a buyer.

Elaborate Outdoor Pools – Elaborate features in and around the pool may look appealing, however, the cost to maintain the pool area can be a deterrent or a safety factor for many buyers.

Huge tubs in the bathroom – The days of the large multi-person Jacuzzi tub are gone. Buyers desire a normal-sized tub, large shower, and most importantly, a walled off toilet area .

High-end materials – Imported high-end materials, such as marble and granite, are often too ornate. Buyers are looking for a more minimalist and natural finish in a home.

Unique Paint Color –Homes using a variety of colors throughout the cabinets, tiles, and floors will make it difficult for buyers to envision their own personalization of the home.  Keep it simple with a neutral color palate.

Too much automation and security – Having the ability to control your home remotely is nice, but the automation still needs to be manageable for the homeowner. Buyers want one touch control versus a complicated system they have to decipher. An overabundance of security cameras can instill a sense of fear or insecurity of the home or area.

Oversized rooms – Creating a larger room for extra family space or a wine cellar by taking away a bedroom will possibly reduce a home’s value. A buyer’s initial detail is the number of bedrooms. When thinking about converting a garage into living space, think twice because buyers of high-end homes want a place to store their many toys.

The man cave – The emphasis on a special man room is losing interest and being disregarded and changed by buyers

Screening/media room – With large screen technology now present in most homes, media rooms are failing to offer true value to buyers.

 

 

 

Radon in Your Home

Most people are first introduced to Radon during a home inspection where not only does it come as a surprise to the buyer, but the seller as well. So what is radon, how does it sneak into your home, and what do you do about it?

Radon is an invisible, odor-free, and cancer-causing radioactive gas.  It sneaks into your home through construction joints, cracks in walls and floors, gaps in suspended floors and around service pipes, cavities inside the walls, and even the water supply.

In fact, it’s estimated that 1 out of every 15 homes in the United States has been found to have elevated radon levels.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they recommend randomly testing your home for radon to determine the risk level to your family. Even a low level can have health risks.

You can purchase inexpensive test kits from your local home improvement store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. If you prefer having a professional, you can contact a qualified radon service professional to test your home. If the level found is 4 picocuries per liter or higher, it’s suggested that repairs be made or a radon reduction system be installed in your home.

For more information, visit:

www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html

www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/citguide.html

To find a professional, visit:

www.nrpp.info

www.nrsb.org

Pet–Friendly Spaces

Pets are a part of the family too.  Builder magazine featured an article on Visbeen Architects showcasing four plan ideas with pet-friendly details to amaze cat and dog owners alike. 

Dining Area Just for Fido or Fluffy

A mud room right off the kitchen offers a great opportunity to serve as a pet dining area as well. It gives your pet their own special place out of sight, yet close enough to not feel left out.  One floor plan idea from Visbeen Architects featured a cabinet with a bottom drawer that slightly pulls out enough to have food and water bowls.  The drawer can be pushed back in when needed.

All Essential Mud Room

Mud rooms connecting the garage to the home can also be a great place to keep the daily necessities for your pet.  Have a cabinet with hooks and shelves to store leashes, dog-walking supplies, food, pet carrier and other essentials. This will not only allow easy access to leashes as you take your dog for a walk, but will also provide you with organization to simplify your life. Another nice feature is a bench to sit down and prepare for outdoor exercise with Fido.

No More Muddy Paws

Whether its dirt, mud, or sand, having a shower area just inside the entrance to the mud room can provide an ideal place to wash those dirty paws and keep your floors clean.

Hideaways

Pet area containment can leave you with kennels and baby gates which stand out in your home. Instead, create hideaways to corral your canine.  Coat closets at the rear entrance to your home can be a great place for a built-in kennel.  Another hideaway to consider is installing pocket doors in various areas which just pull-out when needed.

The Sacrifices First-Time Home Buyers Make to Purchase a Home

Dreams do come true! The American Dream of having a place to call home where you can raise a family and create a lifetime of memories can bring about sacrifices as well.  So what types of sacrifices are first-time home buyers willing to make in order to make that dream come true?  

Here’s a survey from the 2014 National Association of Home Buyers and Sellers:

  All Buyers
Cut spending on luxury items or non-essential items

72%

Cut spending on entertainment

56%

Cut spending on clothes

45%

Canceled vacation plans

24%

Earned extra income through a second job

13%

Sold a vehicle or decided not to purchase a vehicle

12%

Did not need to make any sacrifices

54%

Last year, the guidelines for qualifying on a loan to purchase a home were increased, but the record-low mortgage rates are allowing more buyers to purchase homes.  Therefore, this survey validates the importance of owning a home and making that American Dream come true.

Central Virginia Real Estate Tax Rates

Below are the tax rates for the various central Virginia counties as of January 2015.  You should verify the rate with the county prior to making a real estate purchase as these rates may change over time.

Albemarle County .799
Amherst County .56
Augusta County .56
Buckingham County .50
Charlottesville .95
Fluvanna County .88
Greene County .72
Louisa County .68
Madison County .68
Nelson County .72
Orange County .804