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The Top 5 Tax Perks for Buyers, Sellers and Homeowners - 2009 Tax Edition

by posted by Desi Sowers

It's tax time, but it doesn't have to be excruciating, especially if you bought, sold or owned a home in 2009.  While so many of us think of tax time as time to write a check, the Obama Administration's stimulus package promised to reverse that tradition, effectively writing a check (in tax credit format) to buyers, sellers and even  short sellers and those who lost a home through foreclosure.

Take this quick list of tax tips to your personal tax guru and cash in your check from Uncle Sam!

    1.  2009-10 First-time Homebuyer
     Tax Credit
  • Who It Helps: Recent (or current!) homebuyers who had not owned a home in the 3 years prior to buying, but bought one in 2009 or this year (must be in contract on or before April 30, 2010).  Depending on when you bought (or buy! there's still some time left!) income and purchase price limits may apply.
  • How It Helps: Depending on your income and purchase price, you can receive up to an $8,000 fully refundable tax credit.  (That means if you were already getting a refund, you'll get a bigger one!) You can claim the credit on your 2009 tax return (the one you file on April 15th), even if you bought in 2010.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: Per the IRS website, "because of the documentation requirements for claiming the credit, taxpayers who claim the credit on their 2009 tax return must file a paper — not electronic — return and attach Form 5405."


    2.  2009-10 Move-Up Buyer Tax Credit

  • Who It Helps: Current homeowners who have lived in the home they are selling, or have already sold, as their principal residence for five consecutive years of the last eight years who closed escrow between November 7, 2009 and July 1, 2010, so long as they are in contract on or before April 30, 2010.
  • How It Helps: Eligible homeowners can receive a tax credit of as much as $6,500, depending on income. You can claim the credit on your 2009 tax return (the one you file on April 15th), even if you bought in 2010.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: Can't e-file to collect this one, either - see #1, above.


    3.  Energy Efficient Housing Tax Credits
  • Who It Helps: Homeowners who invested in making their homes more energy-efficient in 2009 and 2010.
  • How it helps: Offers them a 30 percent tax credit on qualifying purchases of energy-efficient furnaces, windows and insulation.

 

 

    4.  Private Mortgage Insurance Deduction
  • Who It Helps: Homeowners who bought a home in 2009, and put less than 20 percent down on their homes. These are the folks whose lenders required them to pay for PMI, or private mortgage insurance.
  • How It Helps: Allows them to deduct the costs - upfront and monthly - of PMI.

 

 

    5.  The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act 

  • Who It Helps: Short sellers, owners who lost homes through foreclosures or had their mortgage balance reduced through loan modifications.
  • How It Helps: Normally, when a loan is cancelled or forgiven through, for example, a short sale or foreclosure, the cancelled debt is transformed into taxable income - and the IRS comes looking for their cut.  Under this Act, qualifying mortgage debt forgiven through foreclosure, short sale or loan modification is allowed to be excluded from taxable income.  The forgiven mortgage debt must be a loan on your personal residence, and must be related to the purchase of your home (if you pulled a bunch of cash out and did a short sale on that mortgage, you might not qualify).

 


On top of these above-and-beyond tax credits, deductions and exemptions, longtime and brand-new homeowners should also look forward to claiming meaty tax deductions for basic closing costs (origination fees, taxes and points - oh my!), property taxes and mortgage interest deductions.

As always, talk to your tax preparer to see if you qualify for any of these tax perks.  And don't delay - the countdown to April 15th is on.

Written by Tara-Nicholle Nelson
Trulia's In-house Consumer Advocate

 

New Listing: Exceptional Home, Panoramic Views, 5 Acres

by Desi Sowers

10 Staging Tips to Help Your Home Sell

by /posted by Desi Sowers

10 Staging Tips to Help Your Home Sell

Want to sell your home? Get out the bucket, mop and Mr. Clean. The key to making a positive first impression is simple, said Sandra Rinomato, host of HGTV’s popular “Property Virgins” show.

“Get it clean, clean, clean,” said Rinomato. “If your house isn’t clean, it instantly sends up negative thoughts that the home is not well maintained. If your house is spotless, you’re ahead of the game,” she said.

But don’t stop there, advised Rinomato. To increase your chances of making a sale, “stage” the house to make it as attractive as possible. Until recently, “Staging meant pulling out all the stops—setting the dining table with your best china and crystal, arranging flowers, lighting candles,” she said. “Now we take the minimalist approach. Basically, you want to strip the house to its bare essentials, depersonalize it so potential buyers can superimpose themselves and their lifestyle on the house.”

Rinomato offered the following tips for staging a home:

1. Visit model homes and examine shelter magazines for inexpensive decorating ideas. Always keep in mind you are not decorating for yourself but for the general public.

2. Start with the outside. Give the house a fresh coat of paint, add shiny hardware to the front door and plant a few flowers to send a subliminal message the house is loved and well cared for.

3. Declutter every room to make it look larger. Get rid of family pictures, trophies and knickknacks. Closets and drawers should be no more than 30% full.

4. Invest in eco-friendly but bright lights. Open the drapes or remove them completely. “Light, bright rooms give the impression this is a happy place—and everyone wants to move into a happy place,” said Rinomato.

5. Feature only a few pieces of furniture with mainstream appeal. Pull pieces away from walls to make rooms look bigger.

6. Make sure a room’s primary use is obvious. A bedroom should look like a bedroom, not an office, hobby center or gym.

7. Bedrooms and kitchens are difficult to stage because they are in daily use, but make the effort. Clear everything off the counters and nightstands, roll up the rugs and hide the laundry hamper. Buff the cabinets with car wax and clean under the sinks. Invest in pristine white bed linens and towels.

8. Minimize the “pet effect.” Remove food bowls and litter boxes to the utility room. Deodorize thoroughly.

9. Organize the utility room and garage. Hang up the bicycles, roll up the hose. Renting a storage locker is worth the cost if it helps you sell faster and for a higher price.

10. Once your house is staged, invite your friends or Realtor over and walk them through to get an objective opinion.

Written by Jean Patteson

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