3 Recession-Inspired Home Remodeling Ideas

 

3 Recession-Inspired Home Remodeling Ideas

 By Rachel Koning Beals, U.S.News

February 1, 2012

 

A soft economy prompted some homeowners to take a new look at their existing footprint. Even as housing-market conditions turn a little brighter, many homeowners still opt to stay put and update their current quarters instead of selling at lower prices.

The numbers prove it. Remodeling industry sentiment, as tracked by the National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Market Index (RMI), hit a five-year high in the fourth quarter.

In many cases, these decisions are fiscally motivated and reflective of the times, but the following remodeling trends may be here to stay:

Suite spot of the market

Many homes are adding bedrooms for elderly residents. Photo: Flickr | Lara604

 

Builders and remodelers are finding more demand for in-law apartments (typically called mother-in-law suites whether mom is the sole resident or not) as part of new additions or basement makeovers. The first waves of baby boomers have reached their golden years and families are getting creative with longer-term care solutions. For some families, this is ultimately a lower-cost option than assisted-living or nursing home care.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, 62 percent of builders surveyed were working on a home modification related to aging in 2010. About 1 in 5 builders added an entry-level bedroom. AARP is working with builders on a designation for Certified Aging in Place Specialists, who are trained in designing and modifying buildings for the elderly. About 3,000 builders, contractors, remodelers and architects have been certified.

There’s another shift among the generations in some households. A soft job market has occasionally landed grown children (and their families) back at mom and dad’s place, too. Lengthy stays often lead to a call to a contractor. Given demographic trends, these remodels have resale potential and are no longer seen as a design burden and deal-breaker for prospective buyers. Remember to follow municipal building codes.

Backyard haven

Ourdoor entertainment remains a priority. Photo: Flickr | combust

 

Booming economic times led to luxury outdoor living—pricy natural stone hardscapes, gourmet grilling kitchens, and major electrical upgrades. The recession may have dinged this corner of the remodeling industry, but the concept survives. In fact, investing in outdoor living spaces (and installing additional windows and doors for better inside-to-outside flow) has been a major part of even budget-minded upgrades within existing home footprints. Consumers may be scaling back their wish list, but they’re not cutting back on outdoor entertaining and family time. After all, if families are traveling less, they’re playing more at home.

Smarter kitchens

Kitchens are becoming extensions of the living area. Photo: Flickr | mitchell3417

 

Smarter doesn’t mean the kitchen does the cooking for you, but it can mean you’re in and out of there in less time. The peak of the construction surge featured token real estate words like “granite,” “high-end appliances,” pre-packaged cabinet “suites,” and more. It’s not that people now want low-quality kitchens, they’re just moving toward more customization.

Some are putting more money in pantries and utility rooms that keep the “guts” of the operation undercover. They’re giving up dedicated food-prep square footage in favor of larger eating and family room areas. They’re opting for open shelving and islands that do a lot of the heavy lifting, with loads of storage. Kitchens are and will continue to look less like a work area and more like an extension of the living area.

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Mortgage Tips for ’12 Buyers

12 mortgage tips for 2012 homebuyers

By Polyana da Costa of Bankrate.com

Getting a mortgage loan has become challenging in recent years. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Lending standards will remain tight in 2012, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to snag a mortgage with an attractive rate. Savvy borrowers who understand the rules and prepare will improve their chances of success.

These tips will help you stay on top of your game as you try to secure a mortgage in 2012.

Study your credit

Good credit is the key to snagging a mortgage in this tight lending environment. Get copies of your credit scores and credit history from the three main credit-reporting bureaus. Study the reports carefully to make sure there are no errors or issues to resolve before applying.

Most lenders require a minimum credit score of 680 to comply with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s guidelines. Federal Housing Administration loans — which are guaranteed by the FHA — allow for lower scores, but most lenders want to stay away from scores lower than 620.

Prepare before you start

Every lender requests certain basic documents when you apply for a mortgage. Don’t wait for them to ask.

Have these documents ready when you walk into the lender’s office: your last two pay stubs, W-2s, income-tax returns and bank statements.

Save these documents and any additional ones the lender requests in an electronic format, so you can easily resend them if anything gets lost.

Know how much you can afford

Don’t rely on your lender to tell you how much mortgage you qualify for and then borrow the maximum amount. Plan your budget, and leave room for unexpected expenses. That’s especially the case when you are buying a house.

Bankrate’s calculators can help you determine how much house you can afford and estimate your monthly mortgage payments.

Shop around

Shopping around for a mortgage should go beyond comparing interest rates. Rates are important, but would-be borrowers must consider points, closing costs and different types of loans. Get estimates from three banks and three mortgage brokers before you decide which combination works for you.

Time is of the essence

Once you submit your mortgage application to the lender, the clock starts ticking. Make sure you quickly send in any documents requested during the approval process.

For buyers, a delay in closing the loan could kill the purchase and cost them their deposits. When refinancing, a delay could mean losing the interest rate the borrower originally locked in. Ask for an expected closing date, and follow up with the lender periodically until the loan closes. Keep in mind, some lenders close more quickly than others.

Mortgage approved? Your credit must stay put until closing

After the lender pulls your credit and says you’ve been approved, don’t assume you’ve won the battle. Most lenders will pull your credit again before the loan closes.

It’s wise to avoid any moves that may affect your credit. Don’t apply for new credit cards or credit lines. Pay your bills on time. Don’t close any accounts. Don’t finance a new car. Stay put until closing.

Consider refinancing with no closing costs

You don’t always have to spend money to save money when refinancing. Many lenders offer mortgages with no closing costs. No, it’s not a free ride. Lenders usually make up for those costs by charging the borrower a slightly higher interest rate. Sometimes the slight increase translates into a few extra dollars in the monthly payment, and the borrower can save thousands in closing costs.

Consider a shorter-term loan

Because interest rates have been at or near rock bottom, short-term loans have become more affordable for many borrowers.

Those who have a 30-year mortgage with an interest rate of 6% or higher may be able to refinance into a 20-year or 15-year loan while keeping their monthly mortgage payments close to what they pay now. Consider this option even when the short-term loan means slightly higher monthly payments. This is your chance to pay off your mortgage more quickly.

Receive a gift? Be ready to explain it

Did your parents or in-laws give you a few thousand dollars as a gift to help out with the down payment? If so, congratulations — but make sure you can document and explain where you got the money.

FHA loans allow borrowers to receive their down payment as a gift from a relative. For conventional loans, borrowers may receive gifts, but at least a 5% percent down payment must come from their own funds.

Borrowers receiving a gift are required to present a gift letter signed by the donor, and they will need a paper trail of the money transfer. Be ready to present statements to show where the money came from when it was deposited into your account.

Unless the money is being used for the down payment, avoid receiving large cash deposits in your bank account until your mortgage closes. Any large deposits other than your paycheck will have to be explained to comply with federal regulations.

Be persistent

If one lender rejects your mortgage application, that doesn’t mean all lenders will. Most lenders follow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines. In addition, they have their own internal underwriting guidelines, and some are stricter than others.

Ask why your mortgage was denied. Depending on the reason, you may be able to take some quick steps to improve your credit, or you might just need to try a different lender.

Appraisal isn’t enough? Try again

If the home appraisal your lender received isn’t enough to back the mortgage loan and you think the appraiser is mistaken, try another lender.

You can’t order a second appraisal or pick which appraiser the lender hires, but you can dispute the first appraisal or apply with a different lender.

In a perfect world, the appraised value of a home shouldn’t vary drastically from one appraiser to another. But you may find that it does. If you believe the first appraiser is wrong, try a different lender and hope that lender’s appraiser does a better job.

Seek help

If you are behind on your mortgage or are struggling to keep up with your mortgage payments, seek counseling.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has counseling agencies throughout the country. Homeowners can receive free foreclosure-prevention counseling from HUD-approved counselors. To find a housing counseling agency near you call 800-569-4287 or visit the HUD website.

 

Posted in Financial, Real Estate Advice | Leave a comment

Decorating Your Kids Rooms on a Budget

Are you looking for decorating on a budget ideas?

 

If you are in the market for budget decorating ideas for kids rooms, you are likely to benefit from the information contained within this guide.

It is absolutely essential for children to have their own space, decorated in such a way that reflects their unique personality and style. However, redesigning a room to incorporate these areas of interest can be quite challenging when it comes to the finances. In this guide, I will share 15 great budget decorating ideas for kids rooms.

 

 


 

budget decorating ideas, kids rooms, decorating on a budget, decorating with paint


 

 

Choose the Theme

One of the most important aspects of decorating kid’s rooms is the theme that you and your child elect to integrate throughout the room.

There are many different themes that are perfect for a child’s room, such as favorite cartoon and/or movie characters, hobbies such as various types of sports and similar activities, as well as color in general.

You can choose to incorporate a particular theme by decorating with paint, choosing bedding to compliment the colors used, or even placing wallpaper in the room.


 

budget decorating ideas, kids rooms, decorating on a budget, decorating with paint,


 

Where to Shop

If you are decorating on a budget, it is important to ensure that you are selective when it comes to the purchases that you make on supplies such as paint, furniture, artwork, bedding, and similar products.

Purchasing from a wholesaler, garage sales in your community, flea markets, and even local thrift stores will result in your saving a lot of money on the items than if you were to purchase them “new”.

Connect and Share

Decorating on a budget when it comes to kids room takes strategy. It also takes a little time and patience. You have to know, right up front, how much that you have to spend, the best places to seek out deals, and the time to dedicate to the process.

If you want to speed things up a bit, try checking out a community that is referred to as “Free Cycle Network”. This network is a community of individuals that have items that they would like to share with others, for free, in exchange for items that they need. You will be amazed at the products that you are able to gain access to and it can give you more budget decorating ideas!


 

Budget decorating ideas by Theresa Foster

Budget Decorating Ideas 

Courtesy of Theresa Foster  from Outofthebox photography: “This is my favorite hobby, next to photography. 

I call it “garage sale chic” I spent less than $75 for everything there except the bed and the guitar.

The vintage tree embroidery was 50 cents.

$1 for the mod trash can (hamper).

The green wall boxes were $1.50.

The duvet was $20 at a vintage boutique.

The pillows were all 25 cents to a dollar.

The star light was $25 from a cool shop in Key West.

The blue toy box was out of someone trash.

Einstein was $10.

You can’t see it here but the dresser was also a trash find from a Tarpon Springs yard. The guy even helped me load it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Decorating with Paint

Decorating with paint is the one of the easiest budget decorating ideas when it comes to kid’s rooms. You can completely change the overall “look and feel” of a bedroom by simply choosing a different color, painting with sponges, and an assortment of other products that can give walls a “unique spin”. You can now even purchase paint that glows in the dark, paint that sparkles, and even magnetic paint!

Painting Furniture

Do you have some old furniture pieces? Perhaps you have discovered a unique bed, chair, desk, or table that needs some work yet it is selling at a great price. Either way, you can benefit from painting furniture!

There are so many inexpensive types of paints that can make any piece of furniture look new! Experiment with colors, textures, and more in order to create a “one of a kind” look to any item you wish to place in your kid’s room!


 

budget decorating ideas, kids rooms, decorating on a budget, decorating with paint, painting furniture


 

Get Creative with Curtains

Many parents who elect to assist in decorating kid’s rooms and decorating on a budget are starting to get creative with curtains. You can create new curtains from old curtains with ease! You can purchase patches that can be sewn on old curtains, small toys, and even small accessories such as beads, jewels, flowers, and/or shells to turn the ordinary curtain into extraordinary!

Decorating with Artwork

There are many different budget decorating ideas for displaying artwork in the room.

Many parents often find that frames for posters and other types of artwork are extremely expensive. Small frames can be created using simple small pieces of wood and then decorative items can be placed around the frame and then it can be laid on top of the artwork.

You can even elect to purchase small fluorescent lighting and unique colored bulbs to hang above artwork in order to create something truly unique.


 

budget decorating ideas, kids rooms, decorating on a budget

Budget Decorating Ideas 

Courtesy of Ashley J. C.


 

Shelves

Believe it or not, if you are decorating on a budget for a kid, it is a wonderful idea to incorporate shelves into the room. Shelves can be used to place clothing, books, games, art supplies, and more!

You can create upright pieces that stand on the floor, those that hang from the wall and even units that can be hung in closets!

Artificial Flowers and Plants

If you want to create a unique design, try incorporating artificial flowers and plants into the kid’s rooms that you choose to indulge in decorating on a budget in.

You may use them to wrap around curtain rods, place them on the walls, attach them to furniture, and many other areas. This is a wonderful way to create a unique design without having to invest a lot of money into the project.

 


 

 Decorating on a budget by Jessica Wilson

Budget Decorating Ideas 

Courtesy of Jessica Wilson: “The bed or, rather, the headboard was made by my brother. I’ve had it since 2000 and he built it from an old found door. The treatment is a mixture of the original layers and some added tweaking by him. He built the posts and added the metal scroll at the top. The rest of the “bed” is a simple platform made by Mr. a-go-go so that we can store things under the bed. We have a pretty small space and lots of stuff.I like to remake the bed each month to reflect the season and the time…within that month I simply wash and remake the bed in the same collection….”

 

 

 


 

Cardboard Creations

Did you know that you can create cardboard creations and hang them in the kid’s rooms that you are working on in order to create a unique look? You can use a stencil to cut out flower shapes, heart shapes, and more and then simply spray paint them with the color of your choice. Then, once dry, you can hang them on the walls in the bedroom!

Decorative Lighting

If you are decorating on a budget, you may be interested in incorporating decorative lighting into the kid’s rooms that you are working on. You can take a standard lamp and then small toy figurines or small decorative figurines and glue them to the base of the lamp in order to create a unique “look and feel” that reflects the personality of your child.


 

budget decorating ideas, kids rooms, decorating on a budget

Budget Decorating Ideas 

Courtesy of Ashley J. C.


 

More Budget Decorating Ideas

1. Use old compact discs or record albums to hang from the ceilings or on the walls to create a unique look.

2. Allow the child to paint and/or draw on one wall in order to incorporate their sense of personality into the room.

3. Incorporate a hanging clothesline into the room in order for your child to hang their artwork.

4. Create homemade pillows, blankets, and bean bag chairs from material located around the home.

5. Before spending money on a mattress, read mattress ratings to be sure you are getting a good deal.


 

budget decorating ideas, kids rooms, decorating on a budget


 

These budget decorating ideas for kids rooms will prove to come in handy! They can allow you and your child to create a unique environment that reflects the unique style and personality of the child with ease!

Copyright 2009-2012 Cool-Kids-Rooms.com

Posted in Home Repair/Renovation Ideas | Leave a comment

Master Bedroom Renovation Ideas

 

Written by   //  2011/04/12  //  Bed and Bath

The master bedroom is the largest bedroom in the home, sometimes as much as twice as large as the next sized bedroom. Homeowners look at these rooms as sanctuaries, a place for couples to have some privacy and enjoy each other’s company.

By pushing out a wall, you can expand the footprint of your master bedroom, to encompass all or part of an adjoining room. Such a renovation may require the help of a contractor, who will help you determine what structural changes are needed, if any, to complete the job.

You can also renovate your master bedroom based on the square footage you have, a more cost effective and less intrusive update to your abode. You may have seen bedroom makeovers featured on HGTV or in leading magazines; we’ll explore some options for your consideration.

Bedroom ambience — Does you bedroom suit you or does it merely satisfy you? Changing the decor is a simple and inexpensive way to change the look of your master bedroom without making extensive changes.

A fresh cost of paint, new wood trim, updated carpeting or flooring and a change in artwork, drapery or lighting fixtures can give your room a fresh perspective. Ratchet up the renovation by replacing your bedroom set including the bed, side tables, bureau and television stand.

If a more extensive renovation is desired, hire a contractor to place a gas fireplace between two exterior windows, adding in a mantle, perhaps a flat screen television above that and offset by new drapes, artwork and marble touches.

Storage solutions — Most people would welcome more storage or at least better use of the space they have. You might be able to combine a pair of adjoining closets — one in the master bedroom and the other from an adjacent bedroom to get the space that you want. If you’re not willing to lose closet space in one room to gain space in another room, then your options include putting in a closet organizer to make use of the space.

A closet organizer is the most efficient and cost effective way to gain better use of a closet. You may need to hire a builder to put your unit in which is usually comprised of shelving, bar spacers, wardrobe bars and is held in place with angle brackets. Larger units for walk-in closets can leave you enough space to spread out, with the ability to add more shelving as needed.

Bathroom considerations — Your existing master bathroom might benefit from a makeover, one where the counter, sink, toilet and bath are removed and replaced. Consider your bathroom lighting solutions when weighing your choices, making use of natural light and recessed lighting to create a warm, calming environment.

Dual sinks are now standard in most master bathrooms with his and her mirrors, sconces, shelving and storage as part of that new arrangement. Include wainscoting, a changing chair and even a dresser if you desire a hotel look or if you have the room set up separate vanities and a changing area.

Other updates to the master bedroom can include new blinds, windows, a ceiling fan with light fixture, even skylights. First floor master bedrooms can include French doors leading to the yard, offering a private escape and entrance to the pool, garden or to a gazebo

Posted in Home Repair/Renovation Ideas | Leave a comment

So You’ve Decided to Buy a Foreclosure

5  tips for buying a foreclosed home

By Holden  Lewis • Bankrate.com

 

Buying a foreclosed home is a little different from buying a typical  resale.

In many cases, only one real estate agent is  involved. The seller wants a preapproval letter from a lender before accepting  an offer. There often is little, if any, room for negotiation. The home comes as  is, and it’s up to the buyer to pay for repairs.

On the upside, most bank-owned homes are vacant, which can speed up the  process of moving in.

“Buying a foreclosure is definitely a bit of a grind. It’s not easy,” says  Robert Jenson, owner and founder of the Jenson Group at RE/MAX Central in Las  Vegas. “You’re getting fantastic pricing, but sometimes it takes going through a  lot of houses and writing a lot of offers to get the home you want.”

In Jenson’s stomping grounds of Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County, the  housing bust hit hard, and upward of 80 percent of homes sold are “distressed  properties” — foreclosures and short sales. (A short sale  happens when the lender agrees to let the owner sell the house for less than the  amount owed because the owner can’t afford the monthly payments.)

Nationwide, about one-third of sales in May were of distressed properties. A  big chunk of those sales went to first-time buyers, according to Lawrence Yun,  chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “First-time buyers are  concentrated in the lower price ranges, which include most of the distressed  sales,” Yun says.

Before you begin the house hunt

The first two steps in buying a  foreclosure should happen almost simultaneously: Find a real estate broker who  works directly with banks that own foreclosed homes and get a preapproval from a  lender.

5 steps to buying a distressed property
  1. Get preapproved for a mortgage.
  2. Find an agent specializing in foreclosures.
  3. Know how long it takes to sell a home in your price bracket.
  4. Study the sale prices of comparable homes in your area.
  5. Remember the sale is for the home as is.

Elaine Zimmerman, a Memphis real estate investor and author, recommends that  shoppers first visit the Web site she owns, ForeclosuresUS.com, or any site with  a database of foreclosed homes. You also could look at a local real estate Web  site that lets you filter the results to see only foreclosures. You might find  the acronym REO, which means “real estate owned” (owned by a bank, that is).  This signifies that a home has been through foreclosure and the lender is  selling it.

The goal of combing through foreclosure listings is not to find a house; it’s  to find an agent. Banks usually hire one or a few real estate brokers to handle  their REO properties in a market. In a lot of cases, the buyer works directly  with the bank’s broker instead of using a buyer’s agent. That way, the  commission doesn’t have to be split between two brokers.

“A lot of these Realtors have a long-term relationship with these banks, and  they know of listings that haven’t even come on the list yet,” Zimmerman says.  “Call them about the listings that you’re interested in, but also ask them about  listings that may be coming up because sometimes it may take a day or two or  even a week before a listing actually comes onto the database.”

Such a request might not always pan out. In places such as Las Vegas, where  thousands of foreclosed properties are for sale, you might not get much  one-on-one attention from overloaded agents. To prove that you’re serious about  buying, says Jenson, “right before or after you meet with the agent, meet with  the lender.”

Unless you plan to pay cash, you’ll need a recent preapproval letter from a  lender. The letter will describe how much money you can borrow, based upon the  lender’s assessment of your credit score and income.

“The problem is buyers want to find the house first, and then they think  they’ll work out the financing,” Jenson says. “But the problem is the really  good deals on these bank-owned, they go quick — and the buyer doesn’t  necessarily have time to try to work out the financing afterward. They need to  work that out first.”

Zimmerman says some first-time  buyers make the mistake of assuming that the bank selling the home will also  finance the mortgage as part of the deal. “Don’t expect to get financing from  the bank that foreclosed on it,” she says. “That’s a totally separate  transaction, and they view it that way. The people in the (bank’s) REO  department are not loan officers. They are getting rid of bad assets.”

Pricing is not a slam-dunk

There’s no rule of thumb on what the  bank’s bottom line is on price. Just as with any other real-estate purchase, you  have to look at the recent sales prices of comparable properties, or  “comps.”

Jenson says: “You really have to look at the comps in today’s current market  conditions and write a competitive offer based on that. Sometimes the bank  prices the homes really low, and the home will have multiple offers over list  price within hours. Sometimes it’s priced too high, and you can come in lower. A  lot of times, buyers will come to me and say, ‘We want to write offers for half  price.’ It just doesn’t work that way.”

Keep in mind that foreclosed houses generally are sold as is. That means that  you shouldn’t expect to get a discount to compensate for repairs. Jenson says:  “Let’s say the house is listed for $200,000, all the comps are $200,000, and so  the client comes in and says, ‘Hey, look, I want to buy this house but I’ve got  to do paint, carpet and fix some mold damage, so I want to take $15,000 off the  price.’ You know what? All the other ones were in the same condition, and they  sold for $200,000.”

Jenson further counsels to look at the “absorption rate for your product  class.” After apologizing for getting “too fancy,” he explains that he means you  should find out how quickly comparable houses are selling. In foreclosure, a  3,500-square-foot house with a pool in a gated community might sell within days  or hours, whereas more modest homes might sit on the market for weeks. Or vice  versa, depending on market conditions.

If homes in your product class are selling swiftly, “the best advice on a  bank-owned property is to come in at your highest and best, unless the property  has been sitting on the market forever with no activity,” Jenson says. “If  you’re going to be upset because you would have gone $5,000 more, but you lost  the property, just bid the higher price in the first place.”

Because repairs are almost inevitable with foreclosed houses, Jenson and  Zimmerman recommend getting to know tradespeople who can assess and repair  damage from pests, mold and leaks. Zimmerman says you should assume that the air  conditioning needs to be fixed, and possibly the heating system, too.

It all sounds daunting. But at least you don’t have to wait for the owner to  move out of the house.

 

 

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Tax credit and deduction tips for home improvement in 2012

By: ARAMatchbin
December  22, 2011 01:00 AM
With the new year under way, you may be  thinking about needed home improvements and how you’ll use your credit to fund  them. While it’s important to understand your creditbefore making  major home improvement decisions, you should also consider another kind of  credit – tax credits for energy efficient home improvements.For  the past few years, the federal government has offered tax credits for certain  home improvements aimed at increasing a home’s energy efficiency. While the most  popular and generous tax credits, such as the one that allowed you to claim up  to 30 percent of improvements such as a new roof or hot water heater, have  expired, you can still get credit for other significant energy-efficient  improvements.According to EnergyStar.gov,  you can claim a tax credit for 30 percent of the cost of installing a geothermal  heat pump, small wind turbine or solar energy system in your home. The credit  has no upper limit and applies to both existing homes and new construction, but  not to rental properties. This credit is good until Dec. 31, 2016.You can also get a credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of residential  fuel cells, up to $500 per .5kW of power capacity, EnergyStar.gov says. This  credit is also available until Dec. 31, 2016.While the initial  cost of these improvements may seem significant, they can dramatically decrease  home energy bills in the long run.Depending on the type of home  improvement or repair you undertake, you may also be able to claim a deduction  on your taxes. Before launching a significant home repair or improvement, it may  pay to consult with your tax accountant to see what, if any, portion of the cost  may be deductible. And, as you do home repairs throughout the year, keep  receipts and discuss the improvements and possible deductions with your  accountant when he or she is preparing your tax return.

Knowing  ahead of time which, if any, tax credits or deductions your home improvement may  qualify for can help you make a better decision about how to use credit to fund  the work. Since how you use credit affects your overall credit score, knowing  the cost of a project before starting it can help you better manage your  credit.

If you’re unsure how a home improvement project may  affect your credit score, websites like freecreditscore.com can help you  understand your credit. The site offers members a Credit  Score Estimator that can help you understand how big financial decisions,  like applying for a home improvement loan, may affect your credit score.

To learn more about tax credits for energy efficient home improvements,  visit http://www.EnergyStar.gov. To learn more about tax deductions, visit http://www.IRS.gov.  You can find a list of regional tax credits, rebates and savings at  energy.gov/savings.

Read more:  The Marietta Daily Journal – Tax credit and deduction tips for home improvement in 2012

Posted in Financial, Home Repair/Renovation Ideas | Leave a comment

Just Plain ‘ol Good Advice

 

*** In the spirit of tax season, I’ve decided to include some, hopefully, helpful tips for your filing this year. It’s not R.E. related specifically, but could be some valuable information to have.***

In 2012, Many Tax Benefits Increase Due to Inflation Adjustments

IRS-2011-104, Oct. 20, 2011

WASHINGTON — For tax year 2012, personal exemptions and standard deductions will rise and tax brackets will widen due to inflation, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.

By law, the dollar amounts for a variety of tax provisions, affecting virtually every taxpayer, must be revised each year to keep pace with inflation. New dollar amounts affecting 2012 returns, filed by most taxpayers in early 2013, include the following:

  • The value of each personal and dependent exemption, available to most taxpayers, is $3,800, up $100 from 2011.
  • The new standard deduction is $11,900 for married couples filing a joint return, up $300, $5,950 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up $150, and $8,700 for heads of household, up $200. Nearly two out of three taxpayers take the standard deduction, rather than itemizing deductions, such as mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes.
  • Tax-bracket thresholds increase for each filing status. For a married couple filing a joint return, for example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15-percent bracket from the 25-percent bracket is $70,700, up from $69,000 in 2011.

Credits, deductions, and related phase outs.

  • For tax year 2012, the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) for low- and moderate- income workers and working families rises to $5,891, up from $5,751 in 2011. The maximum income limit for the EITC rises to $50,270, up from $49,078 in 2011.The credit varies by family size, filing status and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children.
  • The foreign earned income deduction rises to $95,100, an increase of $2,200 from the maximum deduction for tax year 2011.
  • The modified adjusted gross income threshold at which the lifetime learning credit begins to phase out is $104,000 for joint filers, up from $102,000, and $52,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $51,000.
  • For 2012, annual deductible amounts for Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) increased from the tax year 2011 amounts; please see the table below.

 

Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) Self-only coverage Family coverage
Minimum annual deductible $2,100 $4,200
Maximum annual deductible $3,150 $6,300
Maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses $4,200 $7,650

 

The $2,500 maximum deduction for interest paid on student loans begins to phase out for a married taxpayers filing a joint returns at $125,000 and phases out completely at $155,000, an increase of $5,000 from the phase out limits for tax year 2011. For single taxpayers, the phase out ranges remain at the 2011 levels.
Estate and Gift
For an estate of any decedent dying during calendar year 2012, the basic exclusion from estate tax amount is $5,120,000, up from $5,000,000 for calendar year 2011. Also, if the executor chooses to use the special use valuation method for qualified real property, the aggregate decrease in the value of the property resulting from the choice cannot exceed $1,040,000, up from $1,020,000 for 2011.

The annual exclusion for gifts remains at $13,000.

Other Items

  • The monthly limit on the value of qualified transportation benefits exclusion for qualified parking provided by an employer to its employees for 2012 rises to $240, up $10 from the limit in 2011. However, the temporary increase in the monthly limit on the value of the qualified transportation benefits exclusion for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle and transit pass provided by an employer to its employees expires and reverts to $125 for 2012.
  • Several tax benefits are unchanged in 2012. For example, the additional standard deduction for blind people and senior citizens remains $1,150 for married individuals and $1,450 for singles and heads of household.

Details on these inflation adjustments can be found in Revenue Procedure 2011-52, which will be published in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2011-45 on November 7, 2011.

 

 

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