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.
- 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- Moving expenses are repealed except for members of the Armed Forces.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.
Are you planning to welcome an aging parent or in-law into your home? While you may be worried about how your immediate family will adjust, the move will most likely be toughest of all for your Mom or Dad. Keep in mind that giving up one’s independence is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make. And no matter how unsafe or untenable their current living situation may be, it’s still home, and parting will be extremely emotional.
Here are some ideas for smoothing the transition for everyone involved.
- Choose a space carefully. While you may think you picked out the perfect room for your parent, consult with them first. They may have needs and preferences you haven’t even considered, such as an attached bathroom for privacy. In just about all cases, an entry-level room is a must, even for the healthiest of seniors.
- Make room for what matters to them. You may think that spiffing up the room with a new flat-screen TV or walk-in closet would be something your parent or in-law would love, however, a sunny spot for your Mom’s orchid collection may be way more important to her. Being able to continue the small pleasures from their former life will go a long way toward making Mom or Dad happy under your roof.
- Enlist caregivers. While you may be gung-ho to step up and start caring for your parent, it may be the last thing they want. For many seniors, privacy and dignity is paramount and they would much rather have an aide tend to their needs instead of their child. Discuss this openly with your parent and make the necessary arrangements.
- Be clear about money matters. Make no assumptions about the financial arrangement that will take place once Mom or Dad moves in. If they are able and willing to contribute monthly, set up a finite amount in advance. This will help you avoid uncomfortable discussions about paying for groceries, chipping in for rent, etc. In addition, make sure all of your parent’s personal bills are in order and scheduled for automatic payments before they move in.
- Remember, everyone needs space. You may be looking forward to being one big, happy family under the same roof, but remember that everyone needs their private time, most of all your parent. Don’t be shy about retiring early to your room to settle in with a good book, going for a long walk, or out for a date night. Mom or Dad will most like welcome the chance to have their own alone-time, too.
In 2007, Congress passed an energy act that required new energy-efficient standards for basic light bulbs. Standard incandescent bulbs are being phased out and eventually will be unavailable.
The alternative bulbs differ considerably in price. LED bulbs are the most efficient but they also cost the most. CFLs are a less expensive alternative. Interestingly, the more expensive replacements offer lower operating costs and longer economic life.
One approach will be to inventory the different types and quantities of light bulbs you need in your home. Then, research either online or a big box store to find out what each type of bulb costs. This information will give you a total budget for converting your lighting.
It could be a significant expense to replace all the bulbs in a home at one time, especially when most of the bulbs still work. That’s where a plan might make sense.
Replace the bulbs in the rooms where the lights are used the most such as kitchen, family rooms and bathrooms. There may be other “rooms” where the lights are used frequently like certain hallways or stairs. Outside flood lights for security purposes may be a large energy consumption.
Bulbs can vary in light output measured in lumens as well as color of light from warm white to bright white and daylight. The lighting label required by the Federal Trade Commission on all packaging will help you determine which will give you the most bang for your buck.
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 time away.
It’s much easier to play a game when you know the rules so you can avoid mistakes that may keep you from winning. Homeownership isn’t a game but there are some rules that will protect your investment and increase your enjoyment.
Most people want a home of their own to raise their family, share with their friends and to feel safe and secure. In most cases, it is also their largest asset. These suggestions can help protect your investment and make homeownership more enjoyable.
- Don’t overpay for your home
- Maintain your home to protect its value
- Minimize your assessed value to lower property taxes
- Make extra contributions to save interest and build equity
- Validate the insured value of improvements and contents
- Be aware of current surrounding property values
- Make mortgage interest payments deductible
- Invest in capital improvements that increase market value
- Don’t over-improve the neighborhood comparables
- Keep records of capital improvement & other maintenance
We’d like to be your personal source of real estate information and we’re committed to helping from purchase to sale and all the years in between. If you need assistance with any of the items mentioned in this article or need a recommendation for a service provider, it would be our pleasure to help.