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Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 10

When Neighbors Don't Seem to Care

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

A home that isn't being maintained like others in the neighborhood can negatively affect your visual sense of appeal and in some extreme cases, even affect property values. It might be an overgrown yard, a fence in need of repair, excessive noise, unruly pets, paint peeling on the home or even a car or boat parked in front of the home that hasn't moved in weeks.

Most people want to be good neighbors and may be willing to correct an issue once it is brought to their attention. A practical, but possibly confrontational, solution is to contact the responsible person and describe your perception of the issue. However, they may not always agree with the same urgency and it might be necessary to seek other remedies.

An owner-occupant may be more sympathetic to the neighbors and willing to correct the issue. If you think the home might be a rental property, check with the county tax records to identify the owner. They may be unaware of the situation and welcome the notification to protect their investment.

Another alternative might be to notify the homeowner's association, if there is one. One of the benefits of a HOA is to enforce community appearance standards as set in the covenants or bylaws that specify how properties must be maintained. This could be a less personal method of reaching a beneficial outcome.

If the source of the problem is a code or housing violation, the city may be the ultimate authority. Most cities have a separate code and neighborhood services division and some cities have 311 for non-emergency assistance.

Homeowner Tax Changes

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

 

The new tax law that was signed into effect at the end of 2017 will affect all taxpayers. Homeowners should familiarize themselves with the areas that could affect them which may require some planning to maximize the benefits.

Some of the things that will affect most homeowners are the following:

  • Reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for loans made after 12/14/17. Existing loans of up to $1 million are grandfathered and are not subject to the new $750,000 cap.40009294-250.jpg
  • Homeowners may refinance mortgage debts existing on 12/14/17 up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, so long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the existing mortgage being refinanced.
  • Repeals the deduction for interest on home equity debt through 12/31/25 unless the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.
  • The standard deduction is now $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for joint returns. It is estimated that over 90% of taxpayers will elect to take the standard deduction.
  • Property taxes and other state and local taxes are limited to $10,000 as itemized deductions.
  • Moving expenses are repealed except for members of the Armed Forces.
  • Casualty losses are only allowed provided the loss is attributable to a presidentially-declared disaster.

The capital gains exclusion applying to principal residences remains unchanged. Single taxpayers are entitled to $250,000 and married taxpayers filing jointly up to $500,000 of capital gain for homes that they owned and occupied as principal residences for two out of the previous five years.

Not addressed in the new tax law, the Mortgage Forgiveness Relief Act of 2007 expired on 12/31/16. This temporary law limited exclusion of income for discharged home mortgage debt for principal homeowners who went through foreclosure, short sale or other mortgage forgiveness. Debt forgiven is considered income and even though the taxpayer may not be obligated for the debt, they would have to recognize the forgiven debt as income.

These changes could affect a taxpayers’ position and should be discussed with their tax advisor.

 

source: In Touch

Holiday Travels

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

The last thing you want if you’re traveling these holidays is to worry about someone burglarizing your home. Use this check list to add some peace of mind while you’re out of town.
  • Ask a trusted friend - to pick up mail, newspaper and keep yard picked up to avoid an appearance of being empty.
  • Consider discontinuing your mail (USPS Hold Mail Service)
  • Don’t post about your trip on Facebook and other social media until you return – some burglars actually look for this type of announcement to schedule their activities.
  • Do notify police or neighborhood watch – especially if you’re going to be gone for more than just a few days. Let your monitoring service know when you’ll be gone and if someone will be checking on your home for you.
  • Light timers make it look like someone is home – use several sets for different times to better simulate someone being at home.
  • Do unplug certain appliances – TV, computers, toaster ovens that use electricity even when they’re off and to protect them from power surges.
  • Don’t hide a key – burglars know exactly where to look for your key and it only takes them a moment to check under the mat, above the door, in the flower pot or in a fake rock.
These easy-to-handle suggestions may protect your belongings while you’re gone while adding a level of serenity to your trip.

source: InTouch

Forced Savings

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

One of the big banks has a voluntary program available that transfers $100 each month from your checking account to your savings account. In five years, the account owner would have over $5,000 because of a type of forced savings. iStock_000059416596-250.jpg

Similarly, when a person buys a home with a standard amortizing loan, each month, a part of the payment is used to reduce the principal loan amount. Amazingly, over $4,000 would be applied toward the principal in the first year of a $250,000 mortgage at 4% for 30 years. In five years, the loan amount would be reduced by almost $25,000 through normal payments.

The other dynamic that is in play is that while the unpaid balance is being reduced, appreciation causes the value to increase. The difference between the two makes the equity grow even faster. Three percent appreciation on a $250,000 home would increase its value in five year by almost $40,000.

A 30-year mortgage of $250,000 will be paid for in 30 years. At an average of 3% appreciation, the asset would be worth about $600,000. If you continue to rent, the asset belongs to your landlord instead.

Many experts believe that the homeowner benefits from the forced savings of amortization and the leveraged growth that takes place in the investment. It has been observed in the tri-annual Consumer Finance Survey by the Federal Reserve Board that homeowner’s net worth is considerably higher than that of renters.

 

source: In Touch

CT Home Info: Indoor Spring Projects for CT Homeowners

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Happy Spring! After the long and very cold Winter we endured in CT, it is nice to finally see the sun and feel a little warmth.  We are very excited to hear birds chirping and see the green tips of spring flowers finally poking through the ground.  But with the joy of Spring, comes the list of Spring maintenance projects, which can be overwhelming for CT homeowners. Over the next few months, we will help by grouping projects into manageable check lists. Our first list includes indoor projects surrounding your home’s heating and A/C systems.  Handy home owners who have the time and know-how might be able to do some or all of this themselves and others should hire a professional:

  • Replace A/C Filter
  • Check A/C coolant levels
  • Vacuum A/C return ducts to remove dust
  • Flush out sediment in your gas or electric water heater to prevent particle build up
  • Hire a professional service your oil-fired water heater every 6 months
  • Clean outdoor A/C condenser unit prior to cooling season
  • Access wall or window A/C units for cleaning

It is important to have a professional check heating and A/C systems regularly to ensure proper performance. Keep your service records for review in the event you change maintenance companies, they change ownership or for buyers if you should decide to sell your home.  Annual service records go a long way in showing potential buyers that the home has been well maintained. 

CT Home Info: Ice Dams

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Winter certainly found us here in Fairfield County. Connecticut homeowners have experienced freezing temps and record breaking snow fall. As temperatures fluctuate be sure to check your roof for signs of potential ice dams and ceilings for water stains.

Ice dams occur when snow on a roof begins to melt. The water flows down the roof to the gutter and freezes at the eaves. Ice builds up in the gutters, forming a dam which keeps water from draining. 

To help prevent ice dams, use a roof rake to clear heavy snow off the roof. Be careful not to pull the snow down on top of you. Plastic rakes are recommended to prevent damage to the roof. You can hire a professional to do this, safely. 

If you see ice dams forming in your gutters you can create troughs by slinging netting or stockings filled with ice melt over the gutters.

The long term solution to preventing ice damns starts in the attic. Attics with poor floor insulation allow heat to rise which causes the snow on the roof to melt. Consider adding or improving attic insulation to prevent the formation of ice damns in future winters.  

CT Home Info: Emergency Preparedness

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Happy New Year!  This January we are offering simple tips in emergency preparedness for Connecticut homeowners. In case of an emergency, it is a good idea to make sure all adults and kids who are old enough to be left alone in the house know the following: 

Location of the fire extinguisher. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and make sure all adults and kids who are old enough to be left alone know how to use it.  Fire extinguishers need to be tested regularly. 

Location of the electrical panel. Know where the electrical service panel is and how it works. Label each circuit so they can be easily identified when seconds count. 

Location of the main gas control valve and how to shut it off.

Location of the main water valve. In the case of a frozen pipe or leak, everyone in the home should know where the main valve is and how to shut off the water.  

Location of the furnace’s emergency shut-off switch.

Keep this list handy each January as an opportunity to refresh your family’s plan in case of an emergency. 

It is also important to have emergency contact numbers posted where family members can easily find them. Include the numbers for the local fire department, police, and nearest hospital. In the case of a fire, plan a meeting place in the neighborhood for family members so you can be certain that all members of the family are present and accounted for.  In the case of a hurricane or power outage, keep batteries, water, and fuel for the generator on hand. 

CT Home Info: Money Saving Tips for Winter

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Compo Beach SnowDecember can be a very expensive month for homeowners. The cold weather is here, the heat is running constantly, the days are shorter which means using lights more frequently, and the gift giving and family visits really add up. The good news is there are little things Connecticut homeowners can do to save in big ways.  

1.       Keep the fireplace damper closed when the fireplace is not in use to keep the heat from going up the chimney.  

2.       Dim lights by 10 to 15 percent. This small adjustment may not be noticeable to your eye but can make a big difference in your electric bill. 

3.       Have you checked your attic lately? Heat rises and you could be losing money and heat through attic cracks.  Seal attic cracks and add extra insulation to the floor or between the joists.

4.       Add window coverings. This may not be consistent with our staging suggestions but unless you are preparing your home for the market, we actually suggest adding window treatments to help keep cold air out. 

5.       Install vacancy sensors on lights. Yes, they make these! Motion sensors that detect when there has been no motion in a room and automatically turn lights off. 

6.       Invest in Programmable thermostats. Turn the temperature down when you are at work and have it automatically go up 30 minutes before you return. Also lower temperature for sleeping.

7.       Close heating vents in unused rooms. Why spend money heating rooms that are not often in use? Of course be sure that the rooms don’t get too cold, especially bathrooms, vacant in-law apartments, or other rooms with plumbing. 

Do you have any additional suggests on how Connecticut homeowners can save money? We would love to hear them!

Check back next month or follow us on Twitter @CScottDaniels, #CTHomeInfo. We will be offering January tips for emergency preparedness to help keep your family safe during this cold winter season.  

CT Home Info: Preparing Your Home for the Winter

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Tips on how Connecticut homeowners can prepare their homes for the winter ahead.

November

  1. Don’t get caught in the dark! The days are getting shorter and the sun is setting earlier. Check outside light bulbs and confirm motion sensors are working.
  2. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. We like to use the time change as a reminder to check our detectors and change the batteries. Don’t forget to change the clocks back on Nov 2nd.
  3. Have your chimney inspected to be sure it is safe to use this winter.
  4. Clean or replace your furnace filters monthly or as needed.
  5. Check gutters again to be sure they are still clear of leaves, pine needles, and twigs.

Did you miss our October list? View our October posting and follow us on twitter for helpful tips and reminders.  #CTHomeInfo

CT Home Info: Don’t Fall Behind This Autumn

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Ct Home InfoFall is a busy time of year for Connecticut homeowners. Yearly maintenance lists can be long and daunting, which is why we have broken down the list of seasonal maintenance tips into easy-to-handle lists.  Here is CT homeowner’s first fall home to-do list:

October:

  1. Inspect windows and doors for drafts and install weather stripping or caulking where needed.
  2. Call your heating company and schedule yearly maintenance of your system. Ask your supplier about the contracts they may offer which include this service.
  3. If flowers are wintering inside take them in before the first frost. Bring in clay pots before any water can freeze in them.
  4. Shut off outside water before the first frost. Connecticut’s first frost is most often around October 11th- 20th but CT has the ‘benefit’ of the unpredictable New England weather, meaning the first frost could be as early as September!
  5. Clear gutters of leaves, pine needles, and twigs.

Don’t be overwhelmed! With over 27 years of experience selling homes in Fairfield County, we have lists of contractors who might be able to help. Follow us on twitter, @CScottDaniels, #CTHomeInfo, for more tips on preparing and maintaining your Connecticut home. 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 10

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