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Things You Should Think Twice About Before Buying

by Home Action News

 Things You Should Think Twice About Before Buying

 

This is the moment you have been waiting for. All the paperwork is complete, you have the keys, and you are finally in your new home. Or maybe you've been saving your pennies, and you're excited about fixing up your current place. But you may want to move the following lower on your priority list, or skip them altogether.
 
Landscapers. A landscaper can go a long way to improving your yard, especially if you've been fortunate to have a lot of acreage. But is it really worth it?  Sure the massive yard and the things that you could do with it were one of the biggest reasons you decided to buy. But this may cost a lot, and maybe there are other things you want to do to your house. Maybe recreating the lawn from Downton Abbey is not a top priority.
 
Installing a Swimming Pool. Yes, your backyard is large enough for a resort-style in-ground pool. It is one of the major selling points that your agent pumped up when you first bought your house. But give it some thought before you go adding a huge expense like this. Pools are expensive and require a lot of upkeep, and in many regions they don't add to the home's value. Maybe there's a community pool that will give you the same bang for less buck.
 
Appliance Insurance and Extended Warranties. So you bought the whole kit and caboodle when you bought your home or refurbished, including the stainless steel appliances. Maybe the warranties are about to expire. Is it really worth the money to extend the warranties or buying appliance insurance? Maybe putting a few bucks away in an emergency repair fund instead is a smarter strategy.
 
High-Priced Private Mortgage Insurance. You likely didn't even choose your mortgage insurer. It was the one recommended by your agent to cover your down payment when you can't afford 20% down. It's a waste of money to stay with a private mortgage insurer longer than necessary. You need homeowners insurance, but you can typically cancel your PMI as soon as you have reached the 22% equity threshold.   
 
New Furniture. Finally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to start over with brand-new furniture. But give it a lot of thought first, so you don't have buyers' remorse. You will likely have your furniture for a long time. Consider what stage of life you're in and think about cost, style and whether you need child- or pet-proof furniture. 
 
Your home is likely the largest purchase you will ever make in your life. When you bite the bullet and spend that money, rushing out and adding unnecessary expenses to your debt is reckless. When you have the money, add your new items gradually. It will add up to a less stressful much more pleasant resettling or refurbishment.

3 Ways to Find the Best School for Your Children

by Home Action News

3 Ways to Find the Best School for Your Children

 

One of the most challenging issues for parents is finding the right schools for the kids. Choosing a school and school district plays a major role in choosing where to live.  But even if you're not moving, you may have options, and you do not have to make this decision uninformed.

There are numerous resources available to find the best possible educational opportunities for your family.

1. Look into the educational options that are available. In addition to the traditional public school system, many areas are also offering school choice programs. These school districts provide specialty magnet programs that focus study on a particular area from STEM, to the performing arts, to vocational-technical programs. Some start as early as elementary school. At the younger grades the magnet schools often have a lottery system for admission, and the high school level requires an application and auditions for the performing arts.

Check into your school district's requirements, and if you are military ask if there are special waivers for admission in place. The next possibilities are charter schools, which often specialize and have admissions requirements, but are free because they are part of the public school system.

The final options are private and parochial schools in the area. They vary widely in size and cost of tuition. 

2. Mom and Dad – Do your homework! Go online and gather information. Start with local and community websites, including the school district and the individual schools. You may also want to read community blogs or social media groups to get a better feel for how the local neighborhood feels about its school system. Just keep in mind that often people only post the negative and rarely discuss the positive, so take any information with "a grain of salt." There are some statistics about each school that you should take into consideration while you are doing your research.

Look at class size, the student-to-teacher ratio, graduation rates, average test scores, and the school's overall "grade." To get even more specific, look at the list of courses that are offered, the clubs, sports and activities that students can participate in, and the role of parents in the school system.

Finally, for high school students, see if there is a list published of the colleges and universities that graduates are attending. This provides an excellent picture of the rigor of the academic program and the preparedness of the students.

Some good online resources for finding this information are:www.greatschools.org, the U.S. News and World Report Best High Schoolsrankings, and www.privateschoolreview.com.

3. Go on a school visit. Once you have identified schools that would be a good fit for your family, contact the school administration for a tour. Often, especially with private, charter and magnet schools, a "shadow day" where the student spends a day visiting classes is an admissions requirement. As a parent, this is gives you a great opportunity to get a better feel for how the school is run, the type of classes, the other students and a chance to ask in-depth questions regarding curriculum and activities.

Don't be afraid to ask around at work, church and among professionals in the area. This is a choice that you'll want to research thoroughly.

3 Secrets to Lowering Your Property Taxes

by Home Action News

3 Secrets to Lowering Your Property Taxes

 

Everyone likes a tax break, and you may be in line to get one. If you have already received your assessment notice, you may have to wait for next year. But there are still ways that you can lower your property taxes for this year. Keep reading!

#1: Appeal Property Assessments

Think about this revealing fact: between 30% and 60% of homeowners are paying a higher property tax rate than they should because of a bad property assessment. Yet only 1 in 10 homeowners ever contest that assessment.

Pull together information comparing your property to similar properties in your neighborhood. (A real estate agent may be able to help you with this.) Once you compare your rate to what others around you are paying, you will have a good ideaabout whether your assessment is wrong.

However, any improvements you have made since your last assessment will cause your property taxes to go up. Also, take a look at your property card by going down to your assessor's office to check for errors. Keep this in mind: up to 40% of homeowners who challenge their assessments win!

#2: Tax Credits for Certain Improvements (Think Green)

An indirect way to reduce your property taxes is to offset them with tax credits. You would be amazed at how much money homeowners leave with the IRS at the end of each year simply because they did not claim all of the credits due to them.

If you make certain improvements to your home that fall into one of these categories, you could offset your property taxes by hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Here are three homeowner tax credits available to you:

  • Home Improvement Loan Interest. Any home improvement loan of $100,000 or less is tax deductible.
  • Energy-Efficiency Tax Credit.  Simple improvements like installing new efficient windows, HVAC, insulation, or storm doors can account for up to $500 in tax credits.
  • Renewable Energy Tax Credit. Green improvements like installing solar panels that supply your home with energy gives you a tax credit of 30% of your costs for buying and installing.

These tax breaks may change frequently, so consult a tax professional to discuss what is available to you.

#3: Take Advantage of Tax Breaks

Finally, in addition to these measures, standard run-of-the-mill tax breaks can save you a lot of money. You need to bone up on the different credits afforded to you as a homeowner. Talk to a tax professional about shielding part of your home valuation from taxes. Ask what credits are available to you as a senior or a veteran. Regular mortgage deductions added up to close to $2,000 in 2012.

Every locality is different, and some cities and states may offer additional tax breaks and property tax reductions that are not listed here. Check with your local county clerk's office or talk to a tax professional about more ways to reduce your property taxes. Have some questions? Feel free to contact me anytime.

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Photo of Frank Taglienti Real Estate
Frank Taglienti
Berkshire Hathaway PenFed REALTORS®
565 Benfield Road, Suite 100
Severna Park MD 21146
410-440-0824

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