"HOUSE" Tips & Market News
Volume Five | Issue One
IT'S A BRAND NEW YEAR!
Out with the old and in with new!. We have to admit... we didn't even get use to writing "2017" and the year is already gone. We hope your year was a great one and we hope your year-end holiday celebrations were nothing short of spectacular! Here's looking forward to an even greater year. And as always, thank you for reading our newsletter. We hope you enjoy it!
Diane & Jeff
THE NEW TAX LAW
As we all know, Congress passed the final version of the tax bill and the president signed it into law. Good? Bad? Time will tell. Regardless, homeowners - especially in California - will have decisions to make next tax year due to reductions or elimination of certain deductions. However, the Central Valley is somewhat insulated from many of the new limitations simply due to the great value, i.e., the relatively low cost of real estate, that the tax bill's effect on Valley homeowners is lessened.
- Mortgage Interest Deduction: Current law allows you to deduct interest paid on your mortgage on up to $1 million dollars worth of loans. The new tax law lowers the mortgage amount to $750,000. What this means: If your mortgage is $750,000 or less, you can deduct the full interest paid on your loan.
- State and Local Property Taxes: Current law allows these taxes to be fully deducted on your federal income tax. The new tax law caps this deduction at $10,000. What this means: If your yearly property tax bill is less than $10,000 you can deduct the full amount of your tax on your federal return.
- Capital Gains on Home Sales: Current law allows homeowners to exclude up to $500,000 for joint filers and $250,000 for single filers. Also, the home needs to be your primary residence for two of the last five years. The new tax law leaves capital gains unchanged. What this means: No effect. (To refresh, capital gains is the difference of your home's sale price and the price you paid for it. If you paid $300,000 for it 10 years ago and you sell it today for $500,000, you'll realize a capital gain of $200,000 - well clear of the limits.)
- Home Equity Debt: Current law allows for interest deductions for home equity loans. The new tax law eliminates this deduction entirely and does not "grandfather" existing loans. What this means: You will not be able to deduct interest paid on home equity loans, whether a new loan or an existing loan. If you currently have a home equity loan, you'll want to determine the how this will affect your 2018 taxes.
This information provides a snapshot of the main real estate tax changes. For more detailed information and to determine the impact of these changes on you personally, we recommend speaking with your tax professional.
SIX NEAR-GENIUS WAYS TO FOOL
BURGLARS INTO THINKING YOU’RE HOME
Your home: You love it, but sometimes you have to leave it. Whether it’s the eight hours a day or eight days on a long overdue vacation, allowing your biggest investment to fend for itself can be stressful. And it’s a legitimate concern; when your home looks empty, break-ins happen. A lot.
You could deter burglars by never leaving your house again. Or you could do the next best thing and just make it look like someone is there all the time. Here’s how:
#1 Light Up a Room
Your parents may still rely on their lighting timer — on at 8 p.m., off at 7 a.m. That old-fashioned option still works, but apps are more flexible and kind of fun. They not only turn your lights on and off, but can do so randomly for a more realistic effect. And you can decide to flip on your porch light while taking in a Giants game. (It'll probably work with a Dodgers game too.)
We mentioned Wemo products in a previous newsletter and they work great. However, there are a host of devices available. Do a Google search and you'll have plenty to pick from.
#2 Fake a Netflix Binge
Nothing says “we are definitely home” like the colorful glare of a television dancing in the window. Visit www.faketv.com, purchase one of their little fake TV gizmos, project it onto a curtain, and that’s exactly what your home will say to passersby. The device (which runs between about $20 and $40 depending on size) plugs into an adapter and can either work on a timer or with a light sensor so it can switch on when it gets dark. Simple concept but effective
#3 Make Some Noise
Burglars can change plans in a hurry at the first sound of life inside a home. So, one option when you’re just gone for the day is a noise CD. With noises like vacuuming and a boiling kettle, it can deter a thief who cracks open a window. Do a Google search and you'll find CDs that produce these types of sounds.
#4 Ring and Leave
Burglars will often ring your doorbell and if no one answers, they’ll go around back and kick in the door. Now you can answer the door with the Ring Video Doorbell (around $200 for the basic model). You've probably seen these featured recently on the local news showing "porch pirates" in action. However, if someone actually rings your doorbell to see if anyone is home, you can "answer" the door and talk with them through an app on your phone - they'll have no idea if you're on the other side of the door or enjoying another Giants game (or Dodgers if you must.)
#5 Try a No-Tech Technique
Not everything requires a gadget. Here are ways to up your home security without downloading a single app:
- Hire a house sitter. Then someone will be home.
- Invite a neighbor to keep a car parked in your driveway.
- Install a fake security camera for as low as $8. Burglars may not notice these fakes don’t have all the wiring necessary to be real. And their blinking red lights offer reasonable doubt.
- Place a "Beware of Dog" sign on your gate leading to your back yard. But don't stop there... invest is a big water bowl and an even bigger chew toy and place them we're they're visible on the other side of the gate.
If you're like us, you love your furry family members. Even the most happy-go-lucky dogs and cats have some preferences about the spaces they occupy. If you want to keep you pet as happy and comfortable as possible, here are some things to take into consideration.
Dogs don’t like hardwood
Carpet is more comfortable for your dog when it comes to laying down and sleeping, but it’s also preferable when your dog is on its feet. Dogs typically don’t like hardwood floors because they feel less traction under their paws. They may even try to dig in with their claws to improve traction, possibly damaging your floors. As a compromise, you can place soft, thick rugs on the floor to help your pets relax. You can also place booties (yeah... good luck with this!) on your dog’s feet for better grip.
Fireplaces can be scary
You’ve surely seen a dog get spooked by the sound of 4th of July fireworks. A fireplace isn’t nearly as loud, but can still have a similar effect. Plus, those pops and crackles from the flames are a far more regular occurrence. A quieter gas fireplace is more dog friendly (and also permissible in Fresno County). You can also give your dog a chew toy or bone as a distraction before lighting a fire.
Ignorance is bliss when it comes to fences
A chain-link fence can cause stress for your dog, because it can still see other animals and strangers, but is confined to the yard. If you’re considering a new fence, your dog will appreciate a solid one made of wood or vinyl panels. With fewer lines of sight to the outside, your dog will be less anxious.
HOW TO CHECK YOUR HOME FOR AIR LEAKS
This is the time of year when it’s especially important to make sure your home is properly sealed. Air leaks can make it difficult to keep your home properly heated and can lead to high utility bills. Here’s quick guide to checking your home for air leaks.
Do an air pressure test
You can quickly check for air leaks with a simple test using household items. Seal your home by completely closing all doors, windows, and vents and turning off exhaust fans. Then pass a burning incense stick along the edges of all doors, windows, and other openings to the outside. If the smoke is forced into or away from an opening, you’ve found a leak.
Inspect doors and windows
To check for leaks near your windows, attempt to rattle the frame. This will reveal whether there are gaps along the edges. Also check for cracks in the frame, loose screws in locks, or gaps anywhere in the window.
Door hinges and thresholds are common places for air leaks. Deteriorated weather stripping can also lead to leaks and the door itself can develop cracks that allow air to pass through.
Skylights are a little trickier to test and examine, but you can still do it yourself. Check for water stains near your skylights, which is a dead giveaway of a leak. If you suspect there is one, you’ll have to get on the roof for a closer inspection. Look for loose shingles, cracked roofing cement, and debris.
Well, what can we say? Rates still continue to be stable and they remain historically low. Average rates for the first quarter of 2018 are:
Conventional 30-Year: 4.375%
As always, rates vary with lenders and many factors affect rates. The above rates are not guaranteed and your rate may vary. Contact your lender today to discuss your real estate needs. Don't have a lender? No problem... send us an email and we'll be happy to provide you with recommendations.
It's a new year and as always, we're NEVER too busy for your referrals. Please share our contact information with family, friends, colleagues, and coworkers. Or, feel free to provide us with their information… we'll be more than happy to contact them directly and provide them the same great service all of our clients receive (and deserve!). ~ Diane & Jeff
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