To-Dos: Your March Home Checklist

With the first day of spring coming up on March 20, the time has come in many areas to start shedding winter layers and encourage new growth. Whether the view out your window this month is of a snowy wonderland or something springy and green, these 10 to-dos should help you get in the spring spirit.

 

By:   at Houzz.com

9 Common Mistakes Home Owners Make On Their Taxes

Don’t rouse the IRS or pay more taxes than necessary — know the score on each home tax deduction and credit.

As you calculate your tax returns, consider each home tax deduction and credit you are — and are not — entitled to. Running afoul of any of these 9 home-related tax mistakes — which tax pros say are especially common — can cost you money or draw the IRS to your doorstep.

mortgagesSin #1: Deducting the wrong year for property taxes

You take a tax deduction for property taxesin the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind — that is, you’re not billed for 2013 property taxes until 2014. But that’s irrelevant to the feds.

Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in 2013, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, tax manager at the Cincinnati accounting firm of Burke & Schindler, has seen home owners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.

Sin #2: Confusing escrow amount for actual taxes paid

If your lender escrows funds to pay your property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed, says Bob Meighan, CPA and vice president at TurboTax in San Diego. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two.

For example, your tax bill might be $1,200, but your lender may have collected $1,100 or $1,300 in escrow over the year. Deduct only $1,200. Your lender will send you an official statement listing the actual taxes paid. Use that. Don’t just add up 12 months of escrow property tax payments.

Sin #3: Deducting points paid to refinance

Deduct points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage in full for the year you bought your home. However, when you refinance, says Meighan, you must deduct points over the life of your new loan. If you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $133 per year.

Sin #4: Misjudging the home office tax deduction

This deduction may not be as good as it seems. It’s complicated, often doesn’t amount to much of a deduction, has to be recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your home, and can pique the IRS’s interest in your return. Hampton’s advice: Claim it only if it’s worth those drawbacks. If so, here’s what to  know about what you can write off.

Sin #5: Failing to repay the first-time home buyer tax credit

If you used the original home buyer tax credit in 2008, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years. If you used the tax credit in 2009 or 2010 and then sold your house or stopped using it as your primary residence, within 36 months of the purchase date, you also have to pay back the credit.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe.

Sin #6: Failing to track home-related expenses

If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. Many people forget to track home office and home maintenance and repair expenses, says Meighan. File away documents as you go. For example, save each manufacturer’s certification statement for energy tax credits and lender or government statements to confirm property taxes paid.

Sin #7: Forgetting to keep track of capital gains

If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to pay capital gains taxes on any profit. You can exclude $250,000 (or $500,000 if you’re a married couple) of any profits from taxes. So if your cost basis for your home is $100,000 (what you paid for it plus any improvements) and you sold it for $400,000, your capital gains are $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains. However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523.

Sin #8: Filing incorrectly for energy tax credits

If you made any eligible improvements in 2012 — or will in 2013 — such as installing energy-efficient windows and doors, you may be able to take a 10% tax credit (up to $500; with some systems your cap is even lower than $500). But keep in mind, it’s a lifetime credit. If you claimed the credit in any recent years, you’re done. Fill out Form 5695.

The first part of the form, which covers systems eligible for a larger tax credit through 2016, such as geothermal heat pumps, can be complex and involves crosschecking with half a dozen other IRS forms. Read the instructions carefully.

Sin #9: Claiming too much for the mortgage interest tax deduction

You can deduct mortgage interest only up to $1 million of mortgage debt, says Meighan. If you have $1.2 million in mortgage debt, for example, deduct only the mortgage interest attributable to the first $1 million.

By:  at Houselogic.com

This article was original published in Jan. 2011.

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.

Highlights of the 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers From N.A.R.

homebuyer characteristicsFor most home buyers, the purchase of real estate is one of the largest financial transactions they will make. Buyers purchase a home not only for the desire to own a home of their own, but also because of changes in jobs, family situations, and the need for a smaller or larger living area. This annual survey conducted by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® of recent home buyers and sellers provides insight into detailed information about their experiences with this important transaction. Here are highlights from the latest report.

  • Sixty-six percent of recent home buyers were married couples—the highest share since 2001.
  • For 42 percent of home buyers, the first step in the home-buying process was looking online for properties and 14 percent of home buyers first looked online for information about the home buying process.
  • The use of the Internet in the home search rose slightly to 92 percent.
  • The typical home buyer searched for 12 weeks and viewed 10 homes.
  • Eighty-eight percent of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker—a share that has steadily increased from 69 percent in 2001.
  • Eighty-eight percent of sellers were assisted by a real estate agent when selling their home.
  • Two-thirds of home sellers only contacted one agent before selecting the one to assist with their home sale.
  • The share of home sellers who sold their home without the assistance of a real estate agent was nine percent. Forty percent knew the buyer prior to home purchase.

Buy the Full Report

The full 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers is available in the REALTOR.org Store.

Webinar

In this 22-minute webinar, Manager of Member and Consumer Survey Research, Jessica Lautz, talks about the highlights of the 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Watch the playback of the webinar.

Presentations

More About the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

See and share the infographic.

Courtesy of Realtor.org and National Association of Realtors

Why Sellers Shouldn’t Wait Until After the Holidays to List Homes

By Brendon DeSimone 

trail_of_lightsWith the holidays approaching, sellers often wonder if they should keep their properties on the market or take them off? Or if they haven’t listed their homes yet, should they wait until after the first of the year? Maybe hold off until spring?

Conventional wisdom used to be that you shouldn’t even try to sell your home during the busy holiday season. Potential homebuyers were too preoccupied with attending parties, cooking meals, buying presents or planning vacations. With all that going on, there just wasn’t time to ride around with a real estate agent, looking at properties.

But with the Internet, smartphones, tablets and our always-on lifestyle, that conventional wisdom isn’t relevant anymore. The reality is, the homebuying season is now year-round. Here’s why you should consider listing your home during the holidays, or even in January.

Today’s buyers never stop looking online: Serious buyers are always looking — and the holidays are no exception. They may check out the latest listings in a Zillow Mobile app before bed or while waiting for the kids’ school holiday show to start. Our hectic lifestyles also play a role.

Many serious buyers today work hard. They don’t shift into holiday mode until the last minute. Even during the holiday break, they’re still squeezing in work. There’s no such thing for them as “going off the grid.” So why not continue to monitor real estate listings, too?

The inventory — and the competition — is usually lighter: Despite our always-on lifestyles, many sellers still believe buyers can’t be bothered to look for a home between, say, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. At the same time, sellers who’ve had their homes on the market often take them off during the holidays. The net effect is that the inventory for good homes often tightens this time of year. So there’s less competition for sellers, at a time when motivated buyers are out there looking — and no doubt wishing there were more properties to see.

If you’ve been considering selling, are motivated, are flexible on timing and have a home that truly sparkles, after Thanksgiving there’s still a window of several weeks to get buyers into your home before the end of the year. And those buyers flipping through listings at their kids’ basketball game will be excited to see something new and awesome hit the market — especially if there’s a lack of good inventory in their area. These buyers will be motivated to see your home, regardless of what the calendar says.

1800 Palmwood Cove-small-002-Exterior Front 002-666x463-72dpiHome not selling? Now’s the time to lower the price or change your strategy: If your property has been on the market for months, most buyers and their agents will see it as stale or overpriced and disregard it no matter how great it is or how light the competition is. In that case, it’s time to take action, and the year-end holidays can be a great opportunity to shift course. Dramatically reducing the price or overcoming some major obstacle that’s been preventing the sale might be what’s needed to sell your home.

If you received lower offers early on but weren’t ready to accept them, or you keep hearing there are issues with how your property shows, this is a good time to show the market you’re listening and are serious about selling. The motivated buyers, desperate for good inventory, will notice you and take a look. You might even get a sale closed before the end of the year.

Before you make any big changes, talk it over with your real estate agent, as always.

Don’t want to be bothered during the holidays? List in January: Admittedly, the thought of keeping the house clean, holding open houses and vacating to accommodate last-minute showings during the holidays is a deal killer for some would-be sellers. If so, consider listing your property after New Year’s Day.

Traditionally, not much inventory comes onto the market in January. It’s cold in most places, the leaves are off the trees and landscaping is dead. Many sellers wait until the spring instead, a more conventional time to sell.

January inventory is still very tight. And yet, each January, buyers call up agents, wanting to get into the market. Often, new buyers — with their fresh New Year’s resolutions to stop wasting money on rent and buy a home — are ready to jump into the market as soon as possible. Some buyers are motivated to search for a home in January because of year-end tax planning.

Whatever the buyers’ motivation, for sellers it means one thing: Demand for homes can increase at a time when inventory is traditionally low. And that means if you’re ready to sell, you’ll have an even more “captive” audience during the holidays, all the way through January.

Courtesy of: AOL Real Estate

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow,

Austin Added 23,800 Jobs in the 12 months Ending in August, making it the 12th Best Performing Job Market in the U.S.

capitol grounds

  • Austin’s government sector saw modest growth over the last 12 months by gaining 800 jobs or 0.5%. Overall, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA was robust at 3.5%, adding 23,000 jobs with all but two private industry divisions contributing to the growth.
  • Texas saw net private sector job growth of 2.7% with all private industry divisions but one adding jobs over the last 12 months. As with Austin, total job growth statewide was lower, 2.4%, due to the relatively slight growth (0.6%) in the government sector, which accounts for 16.5% of total state employment.
  • In the U.S., private sector growth was 2.0% for the 12 months ending in August with all private industries adding jobs. However, overall job growth was a more modest 1.7% because the government sector lost jobs (-0.4%).
  • Total U.S. jobs remain 3.2 million or 2.3% off the peak of November 2007. Jobs in both Texas and Austin peaked a year later. Austin is now 63,400 jobs (8.1%) ahead of its pre-recession peak jobs total. Texas now has 476,100 jobs or 4.5% more than the level seen in November 2008.
  • In Austin:
  • The industry adding the most jobs and seeing the fastest growth was professional and business services, which grew by 7,400 jobs or 5.9% over the last 12 months.
  • Financial activities lost 1,700 jobs or 3.7%. On a year-over-year basis, this industry has seen negative growth five of the last eight months.
  • Manufacturing employment was also down, by 300 jobs from August 2012.
  • In Texas:
  • Construction grew fastest, at 4.9%, and added 42,600 jobs.
  • The next two fastest growing industries both grew by 4.1% Professional and business services grew by 58,600 jobs and leisure and hospitality grew 45,600 jobs over the last 12 months.
  • Information also grew relatively fast, by 3.2% and added 6,300 jobs.
  • Manufacturing’s growth was weakest, only 0.1%.
  • In the U.S.:
  • Professional and business services grew fastest, by 3.4%, and added the most jobs (621,000).
  • Leisure and hospitality, construction and natural resources, and retail trade also grew relatively fast, gaining 3.0%, 2.8%, and 2.7% respectively in the 12 months ending in August.
  • Unemployment:
  • In July, Austin had the fourth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros at 5.2%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 5.9%.
  • The rate in July for Fort Worth was 5.9% and 6.1% in Houston.
  • The statewide rate is now 6.3%, compared to 6.9% in August of last year.
  • The August national rate at 7.3% is improved over the rate a year ago of 8.2%.

4115 Columbine Drive, Austin, TX Home For Lease – $1,500

New lease flyer

 

4115 Columbine Drive, Austin, TX Home For Lease – $1,500:

  • 3 Bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, built in 1997.
  • .15 Acres with over 1500 Square Feet
  •  refinished deck, nice open floor plan, ready for new tenants. Owner prefers NO PETS, NON smokers only please.

Contact Ruth E. Powers for more information on this lease listing or visit http://www.ruthepowers.com or call 512.964.3434

Realty Austin’s ACL Music Festival Ticket Giveaway

Love Where You Live Photo Contest

love where you live

Do you love where you live? Enter our Love Where You Live Facebook Photo Contest for a chance to win a pair of Austin City Limits Music Festival wristbands! We are giving away two pairs of ACL wristbands to two winners with the best photo entries. All you have to do is take a photo of your favorite place in Austin, post it and tell us why you love it. Winners are chosen by popular vote and will be announced on Monday, September 30th, 2013.

ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A PAIR OF ACL WRISTBANDS  Two Ways To Win:
1) Enter our Sweepstakes
• LIKE us on Facebook!
• SHARE this photo.
• TAG who you’ll bring when you win in the comments below.

2) Enter our Photo Contest
• POST your own photo of what you love about living in Austin to our Photo Contest here: http://ez.com/loveliveatx
• TELL us where you took the photo.
• INVITE your friends to vote.
• PHOTO with the most votes wins!

Winners announced on our Facebook Page on September 30, 2013.

Visit Realty Austin’s Facebook Contest to submit your photo entry:

https://www.facebook.com/realtyaustin?sk=app_226105637428999&app_data=Love-Where-You-Live-Photo-Contest-1

DATES & ELIGIBILITY

  • START: August 30, 2013 @ 11:00 am (US/Central)
  • END: September 30, 2013 @ 11:00 am (US/Central)
  • ELIGIBILITY: You must be at least 18 years old to enter.