Real Estate Information Archive


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by Frank Taglienti

Homeowner Tax Tips For Your Best Return

First in a four-part series

If you're among the taxpayers who itemize your deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040, you can include the interest you paid on your home mortgage of up to $1 million ($500,000 for married, filing separately), as long as you used the loan to buy, build or improve your home.

You can generally deduct the interest on a home equity loan of up to $100,000 ($50,000 for married, filing separately) used for any purpose, as long as the home equity debt and your purchase mortgage amount don't add up to more than the value of your home, the Internal Revenue Service explains in Publication 936.

Here are 10 more things you need to know to claim your mortgage interest deduction:
1. In general, you have to be legally obligated to pay the mortgage. In other words, you can't deduct mortgage interest paid, for example, on your parents' home unless you have a legal duty to pay their mortgage.

2. If you have a high income, the Alternative Minimum Tax can affect your ability to deduct mortgage interest.

3. Your mortgage must be a secured debt, meaning your lender can foreclose on your home if you don't pay your mortgage.

4. Your home can also be a boat, mobile home, house trailer, condominium, cooperative or similar property, which has cooking, sleeping and toilet facilities. 

5. You can deduct late payment charges as though they were interest as long as your lender didn't perform a specific service in exchange for the fee.

6. If you pay off your home mortgage early and you have to pay a prepayment penalty, that amount also counts as interest, as long as your lender doesn't charge the fee in exchange for a specific service performed or to cover the cost of something connected to your mortgage (like giving you a payoff statement).

7. If you make annual or periodic rental payments on a redeemable ground rent, you can generally deduct them as mortgage interest. Payments made to end the ground lease and payments for nonredeemable ground rent aren't deductible as mortgage interest.

8. Reverse mortgage interest generally isn't deductible until it's paid ? and you don't usually pay interest on a reverse mortgage until you (or your heirs) sell your home and pay off the reverse loan.

9. If you own a cooperative apartment, you'll get a Form 1098 from the co-op telling you how much interest you paid on any building-wide mortgages. You can deduct that amount along with the interest you paid on your individual unit loan (if you got a mortgage to buy your shares in the co-op).

10. The rules change if you got your mortgage on or before Oct. 13, 1987.

Getting a headache from thinking about all the different rules? 

You can use tax software or an online tax service to prepare your return. PC Magazine says TurboTax is the best tax software program. Consumer Reports Magazine offers advice on selecting online tax preparation help.


by Frank Taglienti

Which Improvement Projects Have Best Returns?

Projects that turn unused space you already have in the basement and attic into a finished room and those that boost curb appeal give you some of the biggest bangs for your remodeling bucks, according to the newly released 2014 Cost vs. Value report from the National Association of Home Builders? and Remodeling Magazine.

Complete data from the Remodeling 2013?14 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at

The very highest pay-back nationally came from replacing your front entry door, which returns 96.6% of its $1,162 cost when you sell your home. "Low initial cost combined with the positive effect on curb appeal is likely responsible for the high ranking," the magazine said.

Kitchen remodels are among the most popular upgrades homeowners tackle. Doing a minor kitchen remodel (new appliances and countertops and refacing your existing cabinets) returned 82.7% and cost $18,856 on average.

Turning unfinished space into finished space also had good returns. Adding an attic bedroom cost just under $49,438 and returned 84.3%, while remodeling the basement cost $62,834 and returned 77.6%.

Local Vs. National

While the national figures tell you what the median returns were for homeowners across the nation, you can also look at the data for 120 cities and nine regions. That will tell you what's going on in the local market.

But to get the best possible return on remodeling, your project has to fit the neighborhood and your home. You wouldn't expect to recoup the cost of putting gold-plated faucets in an entry-level home and peel-and-stick tile isn't the best flooring choice for a luxury condo.

If you're considering an upgrade, click Email Me below and we can discuss ways to make sure your project is a good fit so you maximize your home's future value.

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Frank Taglienti
Berkshire Hathaway PenFed REALTORS®
565 Benfield Road, Suite 100
Severna Park MD 21146

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