10 Home-Related Tax Tips

taxes1Tax season is upon us, and homeowners everywhere will reap the benefits of tax breaks and incentives. Homeowners and potential home buyers should know what expenses are deductible and the ins-and-outs of new tax laws. Always check with your CPA about your personal situation.

1. Deduct the interest you pay on your home loan on your tax return. A mortgage interest deduction reduces your taxable income. And because your mortgage payments for the first few years are heavily comprised of interest, they are almost entirely deductible.

2. Deduct property taxes and points you paid to lower your loan’s interest rate. The IRS offsets the expense of your state and local property taxes by allowing you to deduct those fees from your itemized income tax return. You may also get a tax benefit if you paid “points” at closing to lower your mortgage interest rate.

3. Take advantage of new laws in a challenging market. Look into new tax laws that may allow new homebuyers to get an $8,000 tax credit, short sellers to escape penalty for forgiven mortgage debt, and homeowners to contest property taxes in a struggling market.

taxes24. Request a property tax reassessment if your home’s market value has declined. If your property value is significantly lower now than when you bought it, show proof of your home’s current market value and recent comparable sales in your neighborhood to your local tax assessor for a tax adjustment.

5. Research past and proposed assessments that may apply to your home. Understanding property taxes and assessments in your area will give you a more accurate homeownership cost, as well as help you predict and control your monthly expenses.

6. Get a reliable estimate of your property tax bill. Don’t rely on the old tax data passed down from your home’s previous owners. Depending on the circumstances of the sale, your tax bill can differ from their bill. taxes3

7. Wrap your property taxes into your monthly mortgage payment. If you’re daunted by that huge tax bill once or twice a year, consider setting up a convenient escrow account. (As this also protects the lender, they are more than happy to do the work.)

8. Understand how capital gains tax is calculated. When you sell your home, you’re taxed on any profit over $250,000 if you are single, $500,000 if married. But in calculating your gains, the IRS takes into account the money you put into improving the home. Remember to save receipts for any repairs and upgrades.

9. Know how your tax situation changes with every real estate move you make. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, refinancing, or renting your investment property, understand how these situations affect your taxes.

10. See if homeownership lowers your tax liability. Your tax situation varies depending on your stage in life. Upon examining your payroll withholdings, opt to reduce them to be in line with your net tax liability, which will put more money in your pocket each pay period.

2013’s Hot Home Trends and Easy Updates

The top home decor trends for 2013 are already emerging, and homeowners seeking a fresh look will find a lot to love. Not only can these looks be accomplished in minimal time – they’re budget friendly and easy enough for DIYers to finish in a weekend or less.

Giving your home an updated feel doesn’t require a full-scale renovation. Instead, focus on simple updates for the most frequently used rooms in your house. When you’re ready to get started on your home’s new look, let these trends of the year be your design guide.

In the kitchen

kitchen1Kitchens need to be functional, but in this hub of the home, style is just as important. Upholding practicality while adding visual interest is a top trend this season. Two-toned upper and lower cabinet colors are rapidly growing in popularity as a way to let homeowners customize their kitchen spaces and express their personalities.


  • Maple is the style frontrunner when it comes to wooden cabinets, but painted cabinets in white, black and gray tones are also on the rise. Whether you opt to replace your cabinet fronts or paint them, your efforts will give you impressive – and fast – results.
  • On the functionality front, innovative hands-free faucets simplify cooking and cleaning tasks while requiring minimal effort to install.
  • Open shelving is seeing a boost in popularity. Both glass-fronted cabinets and simple open shelves capture this trend, allowing you to put your style on display while creating a sleek, updated look.

In the bath

A luxurious-feeling bath doesn’t need to make big demands on your wallet. By making a bath1few on-trend updates, you’ll give your room designer appeal guaranteed to make an impression.

  • Updating the vanity, often the focal point in a bathroom, provides immediate results. Customizable modular options let you create a storage-savvy vanity that fits virtually any bathroom while also adding functional drawer and countertop space.
  • Tiling provides the perfect solution to add extra personality to your bath. Right now, trends offer two different but equally chic directions – large-scale tile and small-scale mosaics. Tiles with wood-like appearances are also gaining popularity; they create a warm, inviting look, but offer the wet-space practicality of tile. If it’s your first time tiling, home improvement experts at stores like Lowe’s can provide guidance to get started with your tile flooring.

Throughout the home

When it comes to low-effort, big-impact changes, it’s hard to beat a fresh coat of paint. For bed1 walls that feel drab, boring or outdated, new paint makes a color statement and draws attention to architectural details. Follow these paint tips to make an instant, dramatic impression:

  • Alter the dimensions of a space by painting ceilings a slightly lighter color than the walls.
  • Create patterns and shapes using painter’s tape. Stripes, chevrons and ombre effects are perfectly on-trend.
  • Highlight architectural details by painting interior doors and trim in a colorful hue instead of traditional white.

In one weekend or less, these simple changes will make your home feel like an entirely new space. So when the seasonal urge to renovate sets in, don’t resist – reinvigorate your home with these ideas.

How Can I Live “Greener?”

green1“The pressure is mounting for all of us to grow an environmental conscience,” says Dave Sears, OptHome co-founder and chief strategist. “We don’t all think green, but if each household hops on the environmental bandwagon and reduces their household emissions of waste and exhaust, and consumption of water and electricity, perhaps we can speed up the process of growing a collective green conscience and save a little money in the process.”

These days, more and more homeowners want to be more eco-conscious, but believe it will cost too much money. However, by incorporating just a few simple and cost-effective tips into everyday living, homeowners can turn their home into a more energy-efficient investment.

Here are 10 easy steps to live greener and contribute to the solution:

1. Recycle. It’s free, reduces household consumption and increases energy efficiency.

2. Save Water. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets to cut back on water flow. A green4simple fix – shorten your shower times and shorten your water bill.

3. Conserve Rain Water. Set up barrels in your backyard to collect rain water and snow for watering plants and shrubs. Use this to water your indoor plants, too.

4. Reduce Electricity. Remember to turn off the light when you leave the room and to unplug your computer and other electronics and appliances when not in use. These small gestures will not only save energy but will save you money on your electric bill as well.

5. Replace Light Bulbs. Replace your current light bulbs with compact florescent green3lighting. Believe it or not, these bulbs use 30% less energy, but produce the same amount of light and last longer.

6. Drive Less. You may not be ready to give up your sporty SUV, but why not trade it in for a hybrid. If that’s not in your budget, carpool or try walking.

7. Double Up on Printing. Configure your computer to print on both sides of the paper. This saves paper, trees and you running out to the store last minute to buy a new supply.

8. Adjust Refrigerator Temperature. Refrigerators use up the most electricity in your house. Adjust your fridge to the average temperature of 37 degrees F and your freezer to 0 degrees F.

9. Support Local Farms. You will be cutting back on gas and decreasing our green2dependence on oil with the trucks that are used to ship produce. Best of all, you will be eating delicious fruit and veggies that have less chemicals.

10. Dry Clothes Outside. Give your dryer a break. Hang your clothes outside and get that fresh smell. You’ll also be reducing the amount of energy you use in the home.