IMPORTANT! Changes to Tax Laws and How It Affects You!

As a homeowner, or soon to be homeowner, you can get some pretty sweet tax deductions from things related to your home. Some tend to change from year to year, like those for energy-efficient upgrades, others are pretty stable, like being able to deduct mortgage interest.

The tax bill that will be in force in the up and coming tax season, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), has made some fairly dramatic changes to how many homeowners will file their taxes this year. Take a look at this preview of home-related points to ponder for your 2018 tax filings.

TCJA Items to Watch in 2018

When the TCJA was pushed through Congress in December 2017, many people were up in arms. The overhaul, they said, was going to be problematic for a number of reasons, which, we’ll see how that pans out. It does seem that when it comes to real estate, the TCJA is going to be a pretty prickly thorn in a lot of property owners’ sides.

These are the top items you’ll want to pay close attention to this year:

Item #1: SALT

The state and local tax deduction (SALT) is set to be a problem for homeowners in high-tax areas. In the past, you could claim an unlimited amount of already-paid personal state and local income taxes, as well as your property taxes, as a deduction to offset your tax bill. From now until 2025, you’ll only be able to use your Schedule A to itemize $5,000 worth of these taxes if you’re married filing separately and $10,000 if you are single or married filing jointly.

This looks like a bear of an issue for many people in those high tax areas on both coasts, but for some, the increase of the standard deduction to $12,000 for singles or $24,000 for couples may balance the equation.

Item #2: Your Mortgage Interest Deduction

If your home was purchased after December 14, 2017, you will be subject to the new limits on mortgage interest deductions. Instead of being able to deduct the interest on up to a $1,000,000 mortgage, you’ll be capped at the interest on only $750,000. Now, if you’re in the less spendy parts of the US, you probably don’t need to worry about this at all, but again, for those of you on the coasts where real estate prices are often hugely inflated by comparison, it may make a weighty difference.

According to a Zillow report published shortly after the TCJA passed, “Under the current setup [Pre-TCJA], roughly 44 percent of U.S. homes are worth enough for it to make sense for a homeowner to itemize their deductions and take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction.Under the new bill (as reported), that proportion of homes drops to 14.4 percent. Interest on second/vacation homes will remain deductible, but will also be capped at $750,000.”

Item #2B: Home Equity Loan Interest Deductions

This one is being called out specifically because of the number of people who are likely to be affected by it. If you purchased a home at any time and took out a home equity loan, you may lose your deduction this year. The TCJA says that unless your home equity loan was used for home improvements, it’s no longer allowed.

There is no grandfathering for this clause, you are paying for decisions you made in the past, not knowing this bill would become a law.

How the IRS will be able to verify how you spent your funds, especially if the loan is 10 or 15 years old, is anyone’s guess.

Item #3: Gains From Home Sales Still Protected

Despite all the new rules that are taking deductions away, the home sale gain exclusion remains. You’ll still be able to exclude up to $250,000 ($500k for married filing jointly) of gain from a home you’ve owned and used as a primary residence for at least two of the last five years. So, you’ve got that going for you.

Taxes and Real Estate: A Tricky Mix

It’s a good thing you have a whole community at HomeKeepr watching out for you when it comes to changes to the tax laws this year. When you’re ready to start discussing your own tax situation, just use the search function to find accountants and tax preparers that can answer your burning questions. Since all the HomeKeepr pros come heavily recommended, you can feel confident that you’re ready for the big tax law change.

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Look at Your Home Through a Buyer’s Eyes: Making Your To-Do List

Selling your home is one of the most tricky parts of owning a home, really. There are always little projects that you meant to get to and didn’t, and things that probably weren’t perfect, but didn’t bother you enough to fix. You can’t possibly do everything to make your house like new before putting it on the market, but there’s a minimum level that most buyers will expect.

How many of those things left on your “to do” list absolutely need to become “to dones?”

Getting Ready to Sell that Home Sweet Home

Before you get too serious about selling, it’s a good idea to have your Realtor over for a quick walkthrough. They can give you a punch list of items they think should be updated, fixed or addressed in some other way before you sell your home. You never know when the right buyer will walk through the door, your house needs to be ready to go from the moment you put it on the market. Putting your best foot forward is key to sales success.

That doesn’t mean you need to completely gut and remodel your home, but you should make sure everything is in proper working order and ready for a new occupant. That can be a lot to wrap your head around, though. If you get overwhelmed, start with the list below.

Entry / Living Room

For most homes, the living room and foyer are a combo unit, but if yours are separate understand that this same advice applies to both. The moment that door opens, and even before it does, your potential buyers are forming an opinion of your home. What the open door reveals had better pack a punch (or at least not terrify them).

Make sure that the windows are very clean to let in as much light as possible, that all your light bulbs are in good working order, the flooring is clean and in good shape, any tile grout is intact and the walls are flawless. A neutral color is always a good idea, but white is kind of a turn-off for a lot of buyers. Blues, light grays, beige and creams are all good choices for paint colors.

Dining Room

Your dining room should follow the same advice as your living room, with one exception. Since there’s probably some amount of eating that happens in this part of the house, you’ll want to check the flooring to ensure there’s no staining or spots under the table.

This is a particular problem if there’s carpet. Do not attempt to cover spots with a rug, this could be considered a “hidden, latent defect.” Basically, it means that you’re hiding damage from a potential buyer. That’s a big fat no go.

Instead, call a professional carpet cleaner (you can meet one in the HomeKeepr community!) or just own it and try not to panic if the buyer asks for the carpet to be replaced or cleaned before closing.

Kitchen

The list of things in your kitchen can be long, but we’ll try to make it reasonable. Check all the items on this list, one at a time:

Appliances that stay with the home
• Are they fully functional?
• Do they have an attractive appearance?
• Do they match one another?
• Are they clean?

Kitchen sink area:
• Is the sink free of damage?
• Does it drain well?
• Does the disposal work?
• Does the sprayer work?
• Is the faucet leaking?

Counters, backsplash and cabinets:
• Do the counters have worn or burned spots?
• Are there grouted areas that are needing regrouted?
• Do the cabinet doors open and close properly?
• Is there water damage anywhere?
• Is everything clean and not tacky to touch?
• Do the cabinets have worn finish?

Bedrooms

Bedrooms are by far the hardest, especially if you have kids. If you’re going to have to live in the house until you find a buyer, invest in some storage systems — they’ll pay off in the long run. Organize everything as best you can to give the rooms the appearance of more space, clean the windows, install the lightbulbs, clean the carpets and instruct everyone to keep it tidy. If anything can be moved out to a storage unit, do it.

Bathrooms

Bathrooms are much like kitchens, they have a lot of wet, moving parts. That being said, they also have basically the same punch list. The only addition would be the shower or tub units. Check the faucets and showerheads for leakage and make sure there’s no mold on your tub or shower surrounds. Clean that stuff within an inch of its life and if you can’t get rid of the stains, recaulk. It’s an easy way to make that tub or shower look like you’ve never even used it.

Garage

There’s not a lot to do in the garage, but do make sure your door opener is functioning properly, that the wheels on the door are lubricated if it’s making a terrible sound when you open it or close it and that you’ve tidied the things inside as best as you can. If you don’t really use your garage, you can dress it up a lot by applying an epoxy coating to the floor. The DIY kits run around $100 and, although they don’t add any value to your home, they’re far more impressive than an old, stained concrete floor.

General Indoors

Overall, it’ll help a lot if you run around your house and make sure that all your lightbulbs are fresh, all the windows are cleaned, you remember to leave the blinds open during the day and that the paint makes each room feel bigger. The key is to bring in more light and then use lighter colors to keep it bouncing around the room. A new coat of white ceiling paint won’t hurt your efforts, either.

Paint is great for a lot of reasons. It can seal in smells you might have never noticed, as well as giving the house the scent of fresh construction. That smell paints a picture for a buyer that says this house has been taken care of and they can trust that it’s in great shape!

General Outdoors

When it comes to the great outdoors, keep your lawn mowed, trim your hedges, clean up any projects that you started and never finished. Landscapers, trash haulers and metal scrappers can help a lot with these tasks. You’ll also want to check out your roof and gutters to make sure they’re in good shape because your potential buyers will be doing the same thing.

The first thing a buyer sees is the view from the street, make sure you run out there during the outdoor prep work to check your look. When you start to wonder if you should actually sell this amazing house at all, you’ve probably got the curb appeal knocked out.

When You Can’t Get It All Done

You don’t have an unlimited timeline, that’s completely understandable, but your home should be ready to sell if you want to get top dollar. If you can’t do the work, just call on someone who can. Your HomeKeepr community is full of professionals who can do specific tasks like cleaning your carpets or help with more general things on your list, like ensuring the whole kitchen is in ready-to-show condition.

Log on, search for the home pro you need right now and let them take it from there. You know they’re going to do great work because your Realtor recommended them!