Making the Most of Your Rainy Day Time

When you can't do the work you want to do outside, make the most of what you can do in the house. Here's a room by room breakdown of the work you can do.

Kitchen

Clean out the fridge - If I were to ask you right now if you had any expired food or condiments in your fridge, could you confidently say no? If you haven’t done it in a while, use this day to go through your fridge and throw away any spoiled items or unwanted leftovers. Make a list of what you throw away so you can be sure to pick them up next time you’re at the grocery store.

Disinfect the sink - Did you know your kitchen sink usually has more germs than your toilet? There are typically more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch in the drain alone. Use a solution of about 1 tablespoon of bleach mixed with warm water to kill most of the germs lingering. If there is an odor coming from your drain, squeeze lemon juice into it, and then throw the lemon into the disposal and grind away.

Bathroom

Uneven fixtures - If you have a sagging towel rack or uneven toilet paper holder, now is the time to fix it. Unscrew the fixture and look for the culprit. Most likely it’s a cheap plastic drywall anchor or screw that wasn’t screwed in straight. A few minutes can fix that eyesore you’ve been looking at since you moved in.

Clean the mirror - If you take a second and look at your bathroom mirror, you may be shocked at what you see. Take a few minutes and some window washing spray to make your mirror shine.
Bedroom

Clean out your closet - Who couldn’t use a little more closet space? Instead of looking at a full closet remodel, make a donation bag of clothes you haven’t worn in a while. A great way to easily decipher the clothes you wear from the ones you don’t is to turn all of your hangers backwards. When you wear something from your closet, turn that hanger forwards. After 6 months, whichever hangers are still backwards are the clothes that you don’t wear.
Clean out “that” drawer - Everyone has “that” drawer in their bedroom that they don’t open (either because it’s a mess or because it’s so full that it won’t budge). Whether that be a drawer of junk in your nightstand or an overstuffed dresser drawer, use this rainy day to finally go through it and discard the things you don’t want. If you can’t remember the last time you went through that drawer, throw everything in it away – you obviously haven’t needed anything in there in a while.

Are You Ready to Buy A Home?

Whether you're currently renting or own a home, there is preliminary work you need to do and things you need to know to make the borrowing process easier.

Choosing a Lender
Ask family and friends whom they would recommend. Also ask your Realtor for recommendations as an agent deals with multiple lenders and knows which ones will be easily accessible during the buying process. Interview more than one lender, preferably a mortgage broker, your current bank or credit union and a lender from a national bank. Ask questions such as how long they've been in business, how long they take to close the average loan, and how much experience they have with loans you're interested in, such as FHA or VA, or a jumbo conforming loan.  Most lenders won't choose to share their list of fees until you apply for a loan and they know what your qualifications are. Some loan fees are state mandated while others are determined by your credit worthiness..The lender needs your personal information to decide whether to give you the loan and how much to charge you in interest.

Applying for a LoanOnce you apply for a loan, your lender will run your credit. He or she will contact one or more of the three credit reporting bureaus to get your credit report and your credit score. If you have late payments, an account in collections, or a dispute with someone that has resulted in a judgment against you, this will show up when your credit is run.. Your lender could help you fix  any derogatory issues. However, some of them may take time to be cleared up.. According to a study by myfico.com, a 30-day delinquency can drop an otherwise good credit score by as much as 90 points. And only top credit scores of 740 or higher get the best interest rates.

Dealing with Credit IsssuesA delinquency stays on your report for seven years, says credit reporting bureau Experian. According to MyFICO.com, the difference between a credit score of 700 and 698 can cost you more than $13,378 in interest on a $165,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. That's because a 700 credit score may get you a 4.5 percent interest rate, while the 698 score gets a 4.875 rate.  Your lender will know how to help you raise your scores, if your scores are too low to get a good rate, because your rate will also make your monthly payments higher. Once you repair your negative credit problem, take proof of payment or release of lien to your lender. You may have to wait a month or two or three for your credit scores to reflect your improved credit history.

Be RealisticTell your lender all you can about your finances. Don't shave time off your present job or inflate your earnings if you're self-employed. Trying to reach for more home than you can truly afford can be a problem for you now and later. The lender may catch you and decline the loan, or at worst, you could be committing mortgage fraud.  Once your lender knows all the problems that could impact the loan, and all the steps you've taken to improve your credit, that's the time to make your application. From there it will take about 30 to 45 days for the loan to close.

Most home buying advice says to apply for a loan before you do anything else, but it's a much better idea to take a few weeks or months in advance to get your credit to the best place you can. That's the best way to afford more home.

Top 10 Common Repair Costs

In the life of every home, repairs happen. Here are the top 10 most common repairs that, sooner or later, your house will require.  To be safe, you should set aside money every year — 1% to 3% of your home’s purchase price — for repairs and maintenance.

The good news is that most repairs are simple, inexpensive, and DIY-friendly. If you can fix stuff yourself, you’ll only pay for the cost of materials and save a bundle on these common repairs and replacements.

1. Replace Toilet Fill Valves - That annoying sound of water continually filling and draining from your toilet tank is often caused by leaky fill valve, which a plumber can replace, stopping water waste and restoring quiet. Plumber rates vary widely around the country, from $45 to $150 per hour, and the job will take about two hours — the minimum some plumbers require just to take the job.

Labor: $50 to $200                  Materials: $11 to $23               Total: $61 to $223

2. Repair a Leaky Faucet - The water torture drip-drip-drip from a leaky faucet won’t just drive you insane, it can drive up water bills, too. Depending on the type of faucet you have, fixes typically involve replacing damaged rubber washers (10 for $2), O-rings (10 for $2), or a faucet cartridge ($8 to $30).

Labor: $95 to $300                   Materials: $2 to $30                 Total: $97 to $330

3. Replace Ceiling Fan - If you’ve got a ceiling fan, sooner or later the motor will burn out, the blades will warp, and fashions will change, so you’ll need to replace it. Replacing isn’t a big deal, because upgraded wiring, a reinforced ceiling box, and a light switch with ceiling fan controls are already in place. What you’re paying for is an electrician’s time — one or two hours — and a new fixture.

Labor: $50 to $200                   Materials: $54 to $1,000 and up               Total: $104 to $1,200

4. Repair Drywall - Nicks, gashes, and smashes inevitably mar your beautiful walls. You’ll have to patch and paint to make them look as good as new. A painter can do both jobs and will probably give you a flat rate that will include patching or filling blemishes, then sanding, priming, and painting.

Painters charge $25 to $62 per hour for labor or $2.68 to $4.60 per square foot including materials. Figure it will take about three hours to repair a wall, including drying time for the patching compound and paint. It’s a good idea to save up painting chores so you have enough to keep a painter busy while repairs cure.

Materials include paint at $12 to $50 or more a gallon, which should cover about 350 square feet; plus another $10 to $50 for brushes, rollers, drop clothes, and drywall patching compound.

Labor: $75 to $186                      Materials: $22 to $100                           Total: $97 to $286

5. Repair Cracked Tile - Tile is hard and durable, but drop something heavy on it and it’s likely to crack — a reason to always order more tile than you need so you’ll always have spares. To replace cracked tiles, a handyman must pry out the damaged tiles, scrape away old fixative, re-glue new tiles, and spread new grout. Replacing a 2-foot-by-2-foot section of tile should take one to two hours, not including the drying time required for the adhesive to set.

Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman

Materials: $1 to $20 per square foot                                                          Total: $34 to $430


6. Replace Caulk Around Tubs, Sinks, and Showers
Caulk is the waterproof seal around sinks, tubs, and showers that prevents moisture from seeping through gaps and onto drywall and flooring. When caulk cracks or peels, it should be replaced immediately to prevent mold and rot. A handyman can dig out old caulk around a tub and reseal with new in about an hour.

Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman

Materials: $1 to $4 for a tube of bathroom caulk                          Total: $31 to $354

7. Fix Gutters - Gutters and downspouts carry water from rain and snow away from your house and onto the ground. Sometimes the weight of wet snow and soggy leaves puts too much pressure on gutters, causing them to pull away from the house or pitch at inefficient angles.

A gutter contractor will clean gutters, and replace or reinstall supportive hardware and hangers. To restore the correct pitch, the contractor must detach and reattach each gutter section.

Labor: $127 to $282 (depending on length of gutter)

Materials: $10 for five hangers; $6 to $9 for gutter sealant                  Total: $143 to $301

8. Fix Out-of-Alignment Doors - Over time, your house moves as its foundation settles and building materials expand and contract with changes in humidity. The movement often is noticed when doorframes shift slightly, causing hinges to creak and doors to not shut properly.

Adding wooden shims to frames and hinges can bring doors back into alignment and let them easily open and close once again. Replacing worn-out screws with longer screws helps secure hinges tightly. A handyman can fix a door in about an hour. Materials will include shims and screws.

Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman

Materials: $5                                                                                          Total: $35 to $355

9. Fix a Faulty Light Switch
Sometimes you turn on the light but nothing happens; or sparks crackle, and the light turns on. It’s disconcerting, but most likely it’s an easy fix. An electrician will turn off the power, take off the faceplate, check and perhaps tighten wires; or replace the switch. All told, it will take less than an hour.

Labor: $50 to $100 per hour                        Materials: $1 to $6 for a single pole light switch

Total: $41 to $106

Source: HouseLogic. Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/repair-tips/home-repair-costs/#ixzz3UxfHx4s5

Tax Implications and Deductions of Home Ownership

Buying a home is often the biggest purchase we make in our lifetime. It can provide financial and income tax benefits, as well as emotional satisfaction. With the buying season just around the corner, potential buyers should get their finances in order and get pre-approved for a mortgage before starting their hunt.

It’s important for buyers to know the tax implications and deductions of becoming a homeowner. Did you know that buying a house can qualify you for breaks on your income tax like tax deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes, and special treatment of gains when the home is sold? You should consult with your tax advisor to get a complete understanding of how the tax laws may apply to your situation.

Let’s take a quick look at the applicable tax credits and deductions when it comes to owning a home. Keep in mind these rules only apply to a personal residence, not an investment property, vacation home, home office or rental unit. The tax benefits of home ownership can be substantial.

Down Payment

Even though your down payment is not tax deductible, using cash from your retirement plan to fund the down payment can have tax advantages. When you cash out, let the plan administrator know you intention for the distribution. If you are under age 59 ½, you can avoid the early withdrawal penalty if you are a first time home buyer and the funds are used for things like buying, building or rebuilding a first home. Keep in mind that even though you avoid the penalty you will still owe taxes on the amount of the distribution.

Closing Costs

Closing costs are not deductible. However, be sure to carefully review the escrow settlement statement for deductible items such as property taxes and loan origination fees (points). Keep track of the closing costs associated with any refinancing as these can lower a profit when you sell the home. Points paid in a refinance can be amortized over the life of the loan and deducted on your tax return.

Repairs, Remodeling, Construction Costs

Any repairs, remodeling, and construction costs made to your home are also not deductible unless they are for major improvement such as a new water heater, roof replacement, additions, kitchen remodels, new windows, etc. Non-deductible items include plumbing repairs, maintenance, painting, and cleaning. Do not dispose of any of these receipts while you own the home as all of these expenses can be added to basis to reduce taxable gains when you sell.

So, what can I deduct?

Many homeowners find that the amount they pay in interest on their mortgage and annual property taxes is enough to incent them to itemize their deductions. Should you chose to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes, you can use Form 1098 which you will receive in January of each year, showing how much you paid in mortgage interest. If you have an impound account with the lender, the total amount paid in property taxes will be reflected on this form as well.
Another way some homeowners can qualify for additional deductions is by getting a home equity loan. Since the interest paid on a home equity loan qualifies as a deduction, the money borrowed could be used to pay off other debts where the interest is not deductible.

Benefits on the sale of your home

For many years, tax laws allowed you to avoid paying capital gain taxes when selling your home only if you rolled over the proceeds into a home that was more expensive. There were also some rules that allowed individuals over the age of 55 to avoid some taxes.

In 1997, those rules were changed. Now the IRS may allow you to exclude any gains on selling your house if you meet certain requirements. Always consult your tax advisor for more details.
The tax benefits of home ownership can be substantial. Always check with a tax expert prior to purchasing your home to make sure you’re getting the tax benefits you’re expecting. Be sure to keep good records regarding the purchase of the home and any improvements you make. Pay attention to when you make property tax and mortgage payments to ensure they fall in the year you want to take them as itemized deductions. Finally, if you have special circumstances (including a potential large gain if selling your home), always get expert advice to make sure you get the maximum benefits allowed under tax laws.
Source: Home Care Buzz