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Replace It Anyway

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Replace It Anyway

If it's not broken, why would a homeowner consider replacing something as expensive as a toilet when there may be other things in the home to replace that provide more aesthetic appeal. Don't be too quick to ignore the functionality and the reliability of this basic convenience.

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The first rationalization might take place at the economic level. A water-saving model could easily pay for itself in a few years and then, there is the good feeling of participating in the conservation of our natural resources.

Having to plunge a toilet more than once a week could motivate a homeowner to spend money on a replacement especially, if having made repairs to the flapper and fill valve didn't solve the issue.

Maybe your existing toilet has ugly scratches that make it difficult to clean. Maybe there are cracks in the tank or bowl that you're concerned will develop into a leak at the worst possible time.

The average cost to replace a toilet is around $400 with models ranging more and less based on the features and brands. Round toilet bowls tend to take up less room, are less expensive and better suited for children. Elongated bowls generally take more room, have more powerful flushing action, more comfortable, more stylish and cost more.

Replacing the shut-off valve for the toilet could be a good thing to do while you're replacing the toilet. Generally, it is as old as the toilet and having a reliable valve that works could be very convenient in a future repair or emergency.

There are a variety of videos on YouTube that could give you the confidence to do it yourself or simply, to have a better understanding of the scope of the project

Before You Leave Town...

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Before You Leave Town...

Along with all the planning of what you're going to do and where you're going to stay, consider this checklist to make you feel more comfortable while you're away from home.

  • Ask a trusted friend to pick up your mail, newspaper and keep yard picked up to avoid an appearance of not being at home.
  • Stop your mail (USPS Hold Mail Service) and your newspaper.

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  • Don't post about your trip on Facebook and other social media until you return; some burglars 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. Set multiple timers for various times to better simulate someone at home. There are plug-in modules for lights and appliances that would allow you to control them from your phone while your out of town.
  • 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.

A Word Homeowners Need to Understand

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

A Word Homeowners Need to Understand

Acquisition Debt is the amount of money borrowed used to buy, build or improve a principal residence or second home. Under the new tax law, mortgages taken after 12/14/17 are limited to a combination of $750,000 on the first and second homes. The mortgage interest on this debt is tax deductible when itemizing deductions.

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It is a dynamic number that is reduced with each payment as the unpaid balance goes down. The only way to increase acquisition debt is to borrow money to make capital improvements.

Prior to the new law, homeowners could additionally borrow up to $100,000 of home equity debt for any purpose and deduct the interest when itemizing deductions. Mortgage interest on home equity debt is no longer deductible unless it is for capital improvements.

Acquisition debt cannot be increased by refinancing. Some confusion occurs because mortgage lenders are concerned in making home loans that will be repaid according the terms of the note and using the home as collateral. That does not include making a tax-deductible mortgage.

Another thing that adds confusion to the issue is that the lenders will annually report how much interest was paid in a year but only the amount that is attributable to acquisition debt is deductible.

Even if the interest on the cash-out refinance is not deductible, it may be advantageous to pay off higher interest debt such as credit card debt and replacing it with lower mortgage debt.

It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to know what part of their mortgage debt is deductible. The challenge becomes more difficult after a cash-out refinance. Homeowners should keep records of all financing and capital improvements and consult with their tax professional.

Unexpected Expenses

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Unexpected Expenses

It's common for Sellers to consider offering a home warranty or protection plan to make their home more marketable. A growing number of homeowners are now purchasing this type of protection for themselves to limit the unexpected expenses of repairs and replacements.

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A home protection plan is a renewable service contract that covers the repair or replacement of many of the components in a home. Some homeowners especially like the convenience that it organizes a qualified service provider as well as the cost of the repairs or replacements.

There are a variety of companies that offer home warranties and the coverage may differ but the majority of things will include heating, air conditioning, most built-in and some free-standing appliances, as well as other specific items. Additional specific coverage may be available for other items like pool and spa equipment.

Some investors are even placing this coverage on their rental properties to limit the amount of repairs during the year. It is a viable way to manage the financial risk and the stress dealing with unexpected expenses.

Call me at (302) 537-3171 if you'd like a recommendation of available programs.

Waiting Will Cost More

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Waiting Will Cost More

An economist responded when asked how interest rates would change: “They may fall some and then, rise and after that, they’ll fluctuate.”

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Just because interest rates have been low for ten years doesn’t mean they are supposed to be low. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates twice this year and are expected to go up twice more plus three times next year.  Mortgage rates have risen from 3.95% to 4.62% since the first of January.

Increased rates directly affect the payments on homes but so does the price. With inventory levels remaining low, the prices will continue to go up. When interest rates and prices rise at the same time, it costs buyers a lot more.

If the mortgage rates go up by one percent and prices increase by five percent in the next year, the payment on a $250,000 home could go up by $200 a month. In a seven-year period, the buyer would pay $18,000 more for the home.

People planning to buy a home, need to investigate the possibilities of accelerating their timetable to take advantage of lower rates and prices. Use the Cost of Waiting to Buy  calculator to see how much more it could cost you to wait.  Call Profile.BusinessPhone} if you have questions about what can be done now.

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When Neighbors Don't Seem to Care

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

When Neighbors Don't Seem to Care

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.

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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 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.

Overlooked Recordkeeping

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Overlooked Recordkeeping

Homeowners are familiar that they can deduct the interest and property taxes from their income tax returns. They also understand that there is a substantial capital gains exclusion for qualified sales of up to $250,000 if single and $500,000 for married filing jointly. However, ongoing recordkeeping tends to be overlooked.

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New homeowners should get in the habit of keeping all receipts and paperwork for any improvements or repairs to the home. Existing homeowners need to be reminded as well, in case they have become lax in doing so.

These expenditures won't necessarily benefit in the annual tax filing but may become valuable when it is time to sell the home because it raises the basis or cost of the home.

For instance, let's say a single person buys a $350,000 home that appreciates at 6% a year. Twelve years from now, the home will be worth $700,000. $250,000 of the gain will be exempt with no taxes due but the other $100,000 will be taxed at long-term capital gains rate. At 15%, that would be $15,000 in taxes due.

Assume during the time the home was owned that a variety of improvements totaling $100,000 had been made. The adjusted basis in the home would be $450,000 and the gain would only be $250,000. No capital gains tax would be due.

Some repairs may not qualify as improvements but if the homeowner has receipts for all the money spent on the home, the tax preparer can decide at the time of sale. Small dollar items can really add up to substantial amounts over many years of homeownership.

You can download a Homeowner's Tax Worksheet that can help you with this recordkeeping. The important thing is to establish a habit of putting receipts for home expenditures in an envelope, so you'll have it when you are ready to sell.

Flag Protocol

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Flag Protocol

The American flag is obviously a symbol of our country but it has come to remind us of every man and woman who has fought for the freedom that we enjoy. The emotions that are stirred by images of our flag can run from happiness to sadness to trust and everything in between.

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Most of us learned American flag etiquette or the Flag Code when we were young but occasionally, it is a good idea to review the guidelines so that the flag is treated with the respect it deserves.

  • The U.S. flag should not be flown at night unless a light is shown on it.
  • The U.S. flag should not be flown upside down except as a distress signal.
  • The flag should never touch the ground.
  • A U.S. flag should be displayed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff in mourning.
  • When displaying multiple flags of a state, community or society on the same flagpole, the U.S. flag must always be on top.
  • When flown with flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor - to its own right. No flag should be higher or larger than the U.S. flag. The U.S. flag is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
  • When the U.S. flag is flown with those of other countries, each flag should be the same size and must be on separate poles of the same height. Ideally, the flags should be raised and lowered simultaneously.

More information on flag etiquette can be found at the Veterans of Foreign Wars website.

Costs More - Takes Longer

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Costs More - Takes Longer

The one experience that homeowners can agree upon after completing a remodeling project is that it costs more and takes longer than expected. It doesn't really matter that you researched, planned, and received multiple bids, it will, invariably, cost more and take longer than you originally anticipated.

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Replacing floorcovering or painting is a project that a homeowner can easily get bids and contract with the workmen directly. A new level of complexity occurs when the project involves more specialized contractors, like plumbers, electricians, carpenters, counters, and others.

Now, a homeowner is faced with dealing with one general contractor who will run roughshod over the sub-contractors or make the decision to do it themselves. Typically, you'll pay more for a general contractor, but the trade-off is that they have the contacts and experience to make things go smoothly.

Subs are notorious for wanting to finish their "part" of the project and move onto to the next job. Sometimes, they're not interested in the "big picture" enough to consider doing things in a way that are best for the overall outcome.

When you start tearing out some things, you find out that there may be unexpected expenses involved. Another common occurrence is that during the project, you get a new thought about changing something else "since it is already torn up anyway." This will add time and money to the job.

There can be the situation that the homeowner doesn't even know the right questions to ask or what to consider when trying to coordinate the different workers. The most detailed timetable can be thrown off track if one set of workers don't show up or finish on time. At best, it delays the project for a few days. At worst, it can delay it for a few weeks because the individual workers may have committed to other jobs that don't allow them to reschedule.

Once the work is done in a professional manner, you're probably going to live with it for years. If it is something you've wanted to do and it will allow you to enjoy your home more, it is worth doing. Just be patient and enter this adventure with the understanding that it will cost more and take longer than you expect.

Case Study - Housing Decision During Retirement

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Case Study - Housing Decision During Retirement

A couple is planning to tour the United States in a travel trailer during their first few years of retirement. They are going to sell their current home now and purchase another home when they finish their travels.

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An interesting exercise is to determine the optimum time of selling the home: now or when they're ready to buy their replacement home.

If they intend on traveling for more than three years, then, it may be a good decision to sell prior to the sojourn to avoid paying taxes on the gain in their home. IRS allows for a temporary rental of a principal residence while still keeping the $250,000/$500,000 capital gains exclusion intact. A homeowner must own and use a home for three out of the previous five years which means that it could be rented for up to three years, but it would need to be sold and closed before that three-year window expires.

If the travel will be less than three years, there is an option of selling now or later. Using the example below, the homeowner sold the home, paid their expenses and invested the proceeds in a three-year certificate of deposit until the replacement home was purchased.

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As an alternative, if the homeowner rented the home, not only would they have income, the home would continue to appreciate and the unpaid balance would go down resulting in larger net proceeds. Based on a 5% appreciation and continued amortization of the mortgage, the net proceeds could easily be $40,000 more.

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Obviously, there are a lot of considerations that affect the decision to sell now or later but in an appreciating real estate environment, being without a home for several years could affect the financial position of the owner in the replacement property. It is certainly reasonable to look at various alternatives before making a decision. Call me at (302) 537-3171 to help you look at the different possibilities and talk to your tax professional.

Displaying blog entries 11-20 of 224

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Photo of Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS Real Estate
Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS
Lucido Global of Keller Williams Realty
39682 Sunrise CT
Bethany Beach DE 19930
Direct: 302.537.3171
Office: 302-360-0300 x 435