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IT’S EASIER THAN EVER TO SEE YOUR CREDIT SCORE FOR FREE

by Frank Taglienti


Free Credit Scores Abound

A handful of credit card issuers are betting that you'd like to see your credit score every month. Discover, Barclaycard US and First Bankcard's have started offering their 35 million cardholders free access to their credit scores.

The score they're sharing ? called FICO ? is used by credit card issuers to decide whether to give you a charge account and what interest rate to charge you.

Discover is putting your credit score on your monthly statement. Barclaycard and First Bankcard customers will have to visit their credit card company's website to see their score.

You don't have to open a new credit card account to see your credit score. Credit.com, CreditSesame.com and CreditKarma.com will give you a credit score (without making you pay for credit monitoring services as some other sites do).

The score you get on those sites can be different from your FICO score and from the credit scores used by mortgage companies, auto dealers and other types of lenders.

All credit scores are calculated using information from your credit report, but each type of credit score is based on a proprietary formula devised by the company that sells the score. While different scores have different number ranges they all predict how likely you are to repay.

So if you have good credit based on one scale, you should have good credit based on another credit score's scale, even though the two numbers might be different.

SIX YEAR-END TAX TIPS FOR HOMEOWNERS

by Frank Taglienti


Six Ways To Trim Your 2013 Taxes

No one wants to pay more taxes than they have to, so use these six strategies to lower the size of the check you send Uncle Sam next April:

1. Pay Bills Early
If you itemize, pay bills early to increase your deductions. Pay your January 2014 mortgage payment and your 2014 property taxes in December 2013. If you're a joint filer and don't have $12,200 in qualifying expenses ($6,100 for single filers) to make itemizing deductions worthwhile, don't prepay your expenses. Save your payments until 2014 when you may be able to take the deductions.

Before you make any early payments, use the Internal Revenue Service's Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Assistant to make sure you're not subject to AMT. If you're subject to AMT, you can lose some deductions, so you wouldn't benefit from paying items early.

2. Make Home Energy-Efficiency Upgrades
Pay for home energy-efficiency upgrades before Dec. 31 to take advantage of a federal tax credit for projects like installing insulation and energy-saving furnaces or air conditioners. This tax credit disappears when 2013 ends, so don't delay.

3. Recycle When You Remodel
When you remodel, do it in a way that keeps intact the fixtures and house parts you remove including cabinets, bathtubs, wood floors, windows and doors. Donate them to a salvage store, like Habitat for Humanity's Restore to earn a tax deduction.

4. Spend FSA Funds On Home Improvements
Have funds left in your Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)? You can spend them to make medically necessary home improvements, such as a hand rail in your bathroom. Get a letter from your doctor supporting your medical need for the improvements. Many employers have adopted grace periods giving you until March 15, 2014 to spend your FSA funds.

5. Deduct Property Taxes Paid At Closing
If you bought your home in 2013, check your HUD-1 settlement statement (lines 106 and 107) to see if you reimbursed the sellers for property taxes they paid. You won't get a 1098 from your lender showing those taxes because you paid them at settlement not from your escrow account.

6.  Take The Home Office Deduction
If you have a home office, but haven't taken the home office deduction because it's too complicated or you're worried it would cause you to be audited, go ahead and take it on your 2013 taxes.

Starting this year, you can take a new home office standard deduction of $5 per square foot (up to 300 square feet) if you itemize deductions. You won't have a home depreciation deduction or later recapture of depreciation for the years you use this simplified option.

BEFORE YOU PICK UP A HAMMER, CHECK OUT THESE REMODELING TIPS

by Frank Taglienti


Before You Pick Up A Hammer, Check Out These Remodeling Tips

While many factors influence the return you'll get on a home improvement, these nine tips from the Appraisal Institute of Canada can steer you toward maximum value on your upgrades:


 

  1. Invest in modern updates in high-traffic areas. Update the core rooms of your home such as the kitchen and bathroom. This can be as simple as changing door knobs, resurfacing cabinets or replacing fixtures and countertops.
  2. Don't underestimate the value of inexpensive updates. A fresh coat of paint, modern lighting fixtures, light landscaping or gardening or upgraded door handles can give your home an updated look and feel.
  3. Consider energy-efficient renovations that have a high return relative to cost. Energy-efficient renovations are considered one of the highest paybacks relative to cost. Energy efficiency translates into reduced operating costs over time.
  4. Be careful about over improvement. Consider your neighborhood and the expectations of buyers in your area when planning your next renovation project. Attend a few open houses at nearby homes for sale to see what's on the market now. If you over improve, you won't recoup what you spent on the project.
  5. Think about your personal needs. How much you spend on improvements will depend on how long you plan to live in your home. If you you're thinking shorter-term, smaller and less expensive improvements may be your best bet.
  6. Be sure to get a building permit. Take the time to obtain the proper building permits from your municipality or appropriate authority. This is a good step to ensuring that the renovation work complies with the building codes.
  7. Hire a designer, architect or contractor. Talk to a professional when you start planning your renovation project. They can help you draw up a plan, provide renovation advice or assist in the construction. This will add to the quality of the renovation and go a long way in preventing cost overruns.
  8. Choose improvements with long life expectancy. Roofing, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and added insulation can keep you warm and dry for as long as 10 to 15 years. But remember, regular maintenance is as important as the initial investment.
  9. Consider unique features with care. Unique designs or improvements that are uncommon for a particular market may make it harder to sell your home when you're ready to move. 

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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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