The benefits of regularly changing the heating and air-conditioning filters are obvious to homeowners; the real challenge is creating a system to make sure it gets done.
A reasonable schedule would be to replace it with a new one-inch pleated filter every 60-90 days. Households with shedding pets should consider replacing them every month. Some people change their filters every month when they pay their electric bills. A simple system would be to set a recurring appointment on your calendar like Outlook or Google.
Filters trap dust, mold and bacteria which can directly affect the air quality and play havoc with your allergies. When a filter is dirty, it prevents proper airflow and allows dust, dirt and allergens to blow through your home. Changing your filter regularly helps to avoid maintenance, improves equipment life and produces increased energy savings.
When shopping for filters, it’s understandable to look for the best bargain but the cheapest price may not be the best choice. When purchasing, recognize that HEPA-rated and HEPA-type filters are not the same thing. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. A HEPA filter meets or exceeds standards for efficiency set by the U.S. Department of Energy. Most HVAC contractors recommend HEPA filters.
Some filters need to be changed monthly and other types have manufacturer recommendations of every three months. An alternative to disposable filters are the permanent, washable types. These will cost more initially but because you can clean them and re-use them, eventually, you’ll recapture the cost and realize savings.
One of the most common reasons buyers want to deal directly with the seller is because they feel they can save the commission. It’s a valid consideration but interestingly, it’s the same reason the seller isn’t employing an agent.
Both parties cannot save the commission. The buyer feels they have earned it because they’ve had to find the home, determine its value and negotiate with the seller. They had to arrange their own financing, title and inspections.
The seller equally feels that they have earned the commission because they too have had to research value, financing and title work. They have incurred all of the marketing expenses and have invested hours upon hours to be available to show the property, hold open houses and answer inquiries.
There is certainly value in all of the things that buyers and sellers are willing to do. However, only one person can save the commission assuming the buyer and seller can reach a written agreement.
The Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey reports that 14% of sales were For-Sale-by-Owners in 2003 and 2004 compared to just 9% in 2012. The trend shows that agent-assisted sales rose to 88% in 2012 from 82% in 2004.
The three most difficult tasks identified by for-sale-by-owners is attracting potential buyers, getting the price right and understanding and performing the paperwork. When surveyed, sellers most value the home selling in an anticipated time frame and for an expected amount.
Experienced, third-party advocates helping buyers and sellers is a valuable contribution to the transaction which may determine whose commission it is.
It’s interesting that the housing climate has changed so quickly. Some buyers, who think they’re still in the driver’s seat, find the market is now going up and they’re losing the home that they really want.
Multiple offers are increasingly more common and buyers are frustrated because even full-price offers don’t guarantee that they’re going to get the home. In an effort to personify a contract offer and add emotional appeal, buyers are including a personal letter to the seller.
In most cases, the seller wants to maximize the net proceeds from the sale by getting the highest price with the least expenses and an assurance that the home will actually close on time without surprises. When a seller is faced with multiple offers that may be close to the same net, an emotional appeal might make the difference in them accepting a particular offer. That’s where the letter comes in play.
It should be a relatively short letter that gets to the point. The tone of the letter should be humble while positive and definitely, shouldn’t mention that you may have lost other homes due to multiple offers.
- Try to identify a common feature or characteristic of the home that is important to the seller and you.
- Don’t criticize the home or tell them about all of the improvements you need to make to justify your offer.
- Do verbalize why living in this home is important to you and your family.
- Assure the seller that you can indeed qualify for the home and that if they accept your offer, the sale will be consummated.
After writing the letter and eliminating the non-essential parts, read the letter a few times to your spouse or friend. Polish the verbiage and check the spelling and grammar. If your handwriting isn’t attractive and easy to read, print it. Use nice paper to appeal to the tactile senses. Attach the letter to the offer so they’re considered simultaneously.
Being pre-approved with good credit, adequate financial resources, good employment, sufficient earnest money and a reasonable offer with minimum contingencies will favorably position you. A personal letter might be the deciding factor in your favor.
Every single day, homeowners who are excited about lowering their rate have a tendency to ignore the refinancing costs because they’re being rolled back into the new mortgage. If the payment is lower than what they’re currently paying and there’s no money out of pocket, it seems like a good deal.
Refinancing your home because a lower rate is available is one thing but the closing costs associated with that new loan could add several thousand dollars to your mortgage balance. By following some of the suggestions listed below, you may be able to reduce the expense to refinance.
• Tell the lender up-front that you want to have the loan quoted with minimal closing costs.
• Check with your existing lender to see if the rate and closing costs might be cheaper.
• If you’re refinancing a FHA or VA loan, consider the streamline refinance.
• Shop around with other lenders and compare rate and closing costs.
• Credit unions may have lower closing costs because they are generally loaning deposits and their cost of funds is less.
• Reducing the loan-to-value so that mortgage insurance is not required will reduce expenses.
• Ask if the lender can use an AVM, automated valuation model, instead of an appraisal.
• You may not need a new survey if no changes have been made.
• There may be a discount on the mortgagee’s title policy available on a refinance.
• Points on refinancing, unlike purchase, are ratably deductible over the life of the loan.
• Consider a 15 year loan. If you can afford the higher payments, you can expect a lower interest rate than a 30 year loan and obviously, it will build equity faster and pay off in half the time.
A lender must provide you a list of the fees involved with making the loan within 3 days of making a loan application in the form of a Good Faith Estimate. Every dollar counts and they belong to you.
The Mortgage Interest Deduction is available to homeowners for up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt on the combination of their first and second home. They can also deduct interest on up to an additional $100,000 of Home Equity debt.
While Acquisition Debt is used to buy, build or improve a principal residence, the Home Equity Debt can be used for any purpose. It can be used for educational or medical expenses, to purchase a personal car or boat, consolidate debts or pay off credit cards.
A homeowner with $15,000 of credit card debt at 19% and sufficient equity in their home could replace it with a home equity loan at much lower interest rate. Not only would the interest rate on the home equity loan be about 1/3 of the rate paid on the credit card, it’s would now be tax deductible.
If the taxpayer was in the 28% bracket, the net interest on a 6.5% loan would be 4.68% after tax benefits are considered.
Shifting personal debt to Home Equity debt can result in an interest deduction and probably, a lower interest rate. For more information see IRS Publication 936 page 10 and consult your tax professional.
Some homeowners, who were not able to sell during the recession, chose to rent their homes instead. In some cases, they didn’t need to sell their home at the depressed prices and opted to rent it until the market recovered.
It’s a valid strategy but there are time restrictions that could have serious tax implications for some homeowners.
The section 121 exclusion for gain in a principal residence requires that the home is owned and used as a main home for at least two years during the five year period ending on the date of the sale. This allows a homeowner to rent their home for up to three years and still have some part of the exclusion available.
The sale of a home with a $200,000 gain that qualifies as a principal residence would result in no tax being paid by the owner. Comparably, a rental property with the same gain could have a $30,000 or higher tax liability depending on the length of ownership and tax brackets of the investor.
The housing market has dramatically improved in the last year. If you have a gain in a home that has been your principal residence and it has been rented less than three years, you might want to consider selling it while you qualify for the exclusion.
If you are considering a sale on your principal residence that has been rented, consult with your tax professional for advice on your specific situation. For additional information, see IRS Publication 523.
It’s estimated that 10% of the homes sold in 2013 will be to buyers who lost a home in the past five years. Approximately 500,000 buyers who may have thought they wouldn’t own a home anytime in the near future will be homeowners again.
It’s estimated that several million of these previous homeowners will purchase again in the next eight years. This kind of activity will contribute significantly to the housing recovery.
Some people thought that the housing crisis would cause a shift in values placed on owning a home but the boomerang buyers definitely don’t support that theory. Having a home of your own, where you can raise your family, share with your friends and feel safe and secure is still part of the American Dream.
The rising rents, increasing prices and low, low mortgage rates are also influencing buyers into the market. In many cases, it is cheaper to own that to rent.
All new buyers, including those who have experienced foreclosures or bankruptcies, must have good credit history and the ability to repay the loan. It just may not take as long to reestablish the credit as some would-be buyers might have thought.
Read more about Bidding Wars This Spring, Spring’s Wild Card and Boomerang Buyers.
One of the drawbacks to low mortgage rates is that the total interest and property taxes paid for the year may be lower than the standard deduction. A little planning might be able to help you at least every other year.
Most homeowners know they can deduct their qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on their Schedule A of their 1040 tax return or to take the standard deduction if it is greater. See Your Deduction…Your Choice.
Deductions are taken in the year that they’re actually paid. If a homeowner paid their 2012 property taxes in 2013, they would not be deductible on their 2012 tax return. Then, if the 2013 property taxes were paid in 2013, both the 2012 and 2013 taxes could be deducted on the 2013 Schedule A.
By delaying the payment of the 2012 taxes until 2013, the combination of the 2012 and 2013 taxes might exceed the 2013 standard deduction and provide a higher deduction.
Other Schedule A expenses such as charitable contributions and medical expenses may be bunched also. From a practical standpoint, since most mortgage payments are due monthly, the mortgage interest would not be bunched.
This information should be discussed with your tax advisor to see how it might apply to your individual situation. The key is you must be aware of the strategy early to be able to use it.
Some people refer to the heating and air conditioning systems as the “comfort systems.” If you’ve ever had to be without one in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, lack of comfort may be an understatement. Simple maintenance with a HVAC checklist is something that every homeowner can perform.
- Change your filter every 90 days; every 30 days if you have shedding pets.
- Maintain at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
- Don’t allow leaves, grass clippings, lint or other things to block circulation of coils.
- Inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into house monthly and replace if missing or damaged.
Annual, in spring
- Confirm that outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps are on level pads.
- Pour bleach in the air conditioner’s condensation drain to clear mold and algae which can cause a clog.
- Avoid closing more than 20% of a home’s registers to keep from overworking the system.
- Replace the battery in the home’s carbon monoxide detector.
Even with the attention that perfoming this list will provide, it is recommended that you have your units serviced annually by a licensed contractor. Furnaces can be inspected for carbon monoxide leaks and preventative maintenance may help avoid costly repairs. Click Here if you’d like a recommendation.
Taxpayers are allowed to decide each year whether to take the standard deduction or to itemize their deduction when filing their personal income tax returns. Roughly, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deductions.
The 2012 standard deduction, available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they own a home, is $11,900 for married filing jointly and $5,950 for single taxpayers.
Let’s look at an example of a homeowner couple with a $150,000 mortgage at 3.5%. The standard deduction would give them $2,650 more than the total of their interest paid and property taxes of approximately $9,250. If they were in the 28% tax bracket, the actual tax savings would be $742.00.
When mortgage rates were considerably higher, many people expected the interest and property taxes to easily exceed the standard deduction but with today’s low rates, a comparison is certainly justified.
There are other things that could come into consideration like charitable contributions, medical expenses and casualty losses. Tax professionals will compare available alternatives to find the one that will benefit the taxpayer most.
For more information, see www.IRS.gov and consult a tax advisor.