Building a Home Emergency Kit

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half the people in the U.S. do not have resources and plans in place to deal with an emergency.

The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take now to help you prepare for an emergency. Depending on where you live, and the unique needs of your family, you might need different things in an emergency, but here are a few things that everyone should have in their home emergency kit.
Food and Water
  • Water, at least one gallon per person per day for a minimum of three days
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food per person
  • Manual can opener for canned food
  • Pet food and extra water

Electronics

  • Flashlight
  • Cell phone with charger, inverter, or solar charger
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio (a NOAA Weather Radio suggested)
  • Extra batteries

Health and Safety

  • First aid kit
  • Medicines (three-day supply, minimum)
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Storing and Maintaining Your Kit

Once your supplies are together, here are a few tips to keep your supplies ready:
  • Write the date you store food and water on all containers.
  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers to protect from pests.
  • Change food, water, medicine and batteries ever six months.
  • Rethink your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.
Mobile Apps:
The Red Cross also has a number of free apps including:
  • Emergency app – Stay on top of severe weather and emergency alerts and gain access to safety information
  • First Aid app – Instant access to information for common first aid emergencies
  • Pet First Aid app – Important first aid information for your cat or dog
FEMA also has a mobile app to that includes safety and emergency preparedness as well as weather alerts, disasters resources and reports.

Other Resources:

 Source: First American Home Warranty

Tax and Home Records Checklist: What to Keep and For How Long

Owning a home can pay off at tax time. From mortgage interest to property tax deductions, here are the tax tips you need to get a jump on your returns. Take advantage of these home ownership-related tax deductions and strategies to lower your tax bill:

Mortgage Interest Deduction
One of the neatest deductions itemizing homeowners can take advantage of is the mortgage interest deduction, which you claim on Schedule A. To get the mortgage interest deduction, your mortgage must be secured by your home — and your home can be a house, trailer, or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.

Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or improve your home.

If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit.

If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan.

Prepaid Interest Deduction
Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is generally 100% deductible in the year you paid it along with other mortgage interest.

If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year.

But if you refinance to get a better rate or shorten the length of your mortgage, or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the life of your mortgage. Say you refi into a 10-year mortgage and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.

So what happens if you refi again down the road?

Example: Three years after your first refi, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refi. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the life of the loan.

Home mortgage interest and points are reported on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040.
Your lender will send you a Form 1098 that lists the points you paid. If not, you should be able to find the amount listed on the HUD-1 settlement sheet you got when you closed the purchase of your home or your refinance closing.

Property Tax Deduction
You can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.

If you bought a house this year, check your HUD-1 settlement statement to see if you paid any property taxes when you closed the purchase of your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.

PMI and FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums

You can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI) as mortgage interest on Schedule A if you itemize your return. The change only applies to loans taken out in 2007 or later.

What’s PMI? If you have a mortgage but didn’t put down a fairly good-sized down payment (usually 20%), the lender requires the mortgage be insured. The premium on that insurance can be deducted, so long as your income is less than $100,000 (or $50,000 for married filing separately).

If your adjusted gross income is more than $100,000, your deduction is reduced by 10% for each $1,000 ($500 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) that your adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 ($50,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return). So, if you make $110,000 or more, you can’t claim the deduction (10% x 10 = 100%).

Besides private mortgage insurance, there’s government insurance from FHA, VA, and the Rural Housing Service. Some of those premiums are paid at closing, and deducting them is complicated. A tax adviser or tax software program can help you calculate this deduction. Also, the rules vary between the agencies.

Vacation Home Tax Deductions
The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes are complicated. Do yourself a favor and keep good records about how and when you use your vacation home.
If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A.
Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Your expenses are deducted on Schedule E.
Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days you rent it and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and allocate them based on how often you used and how often you rented the house.

Homebuyer Tax Credit

This isn’t a deduction, but it’s important to keep track of if you claimed it in 2008. There were federal first-time homebuyer tax credits in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

If you claimed the homebuyer tax credit for a purchase made after April 8, 2008, and before Jan. 1, 2009, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years, with no interest.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe each year until it’s paid off. Or if the home stops being your main home, you may need to add the remaining unpaid credit amount to your income tax on your next tax return.

Generally, you don’t have to pay back the credit if you bought your home in 2009, 2010, or early 2011. The exception: You have to repay the full credit amount if you sold your house or stopped using it as primary residence within 36 months of the purchase date. Then you must repay it with your tax return for the year the home stopped being your principal residence.

The repayment rules are less rigorous for uniformed service members, Foreign Service workers, and intelligence community workers who got sent on extended duty at least 50 miles from their principal residence.

Energy-Efficiency Upgrades
The Nonbusiness Energy Tax Credit lets you claim a credit for installing energy-efficient home systems. Tax credits are especially valuable because they let you offset what you owe the IRS dollar for dollar, in this case, for up to 10% of the amount you spent on certain upgrades.

The credit carries a lifetime cap of $500 (less for some products), so if you’ve used it in years past, you’ll have to subtract prior tax credits from that $500 limit. Lucky for you, there’s no cap on how much you’ll save on utility bills thanks to your energy-efficiency upgrades.

Among the upgrades that might qualify for the credit:
Biomass stoves
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
Insulation
Roofs (metal and asphalt)
Water heaters (non-solar)
Windows, doors, and skylights

File IRS Form 5695 with your return.

Source: HouseLogic Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/tax-deductions/home-tax-deductions/#ixzz40afkJ0hg

Tips for Selling: Give your Bathroom a Spa Treatment

. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Why Spending Money on Fancy Bath Salts Can Help You Sell Your House...You’re not just selling a home, you’re selling a lifestyle.

You’re pragmatic. You’ll buy that deep cleaning and decluttering your house are important steps in a comprehensive home staging process that could help your home receive higher offers and sell faster. But what’s up with those staging recommendations like making your bathroom feel like a spa and your kitchen smell like Rachael Ray just stopped by? Is that froufrou stuff really worth your time?

It is. Actually, the fact that you’re a pragmatist is the reason you’re going to want to shell out for some luxury staging items. The science is in: You’re not just selling your home, you’re selling a lifestyle, and those fancy final touches make a powerful sales pitch.

That’s right. Although the $11,000 you spent on a sturdy new roof might help seal the deal after the inspection, a gorgeous $30 jar of bath salts could be what prompts the offer in the first place.

The Psychology of Emotional Selling

There are plenty of rational reasons for a buyer to want to purchase your house — that new roof is just one of the many. But according to Peter Noel Murray, Ph.D. in “Psychology Today,” decision making and emotions are inescapably intertwined. So much so that people with brain damage affecting the connection between emotions and rational thought are unable to make decisions, even with a clear set of pros and cons before them.

What’s more, functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, results have confirmed the active role emotions play in consumer decisions about brands. How else can the overwhelming success of brand names over generic products be explained when generics are often the exact same thing?

People want to be associated with the brand that feels more upscale, or as Terrylynn Fisher, a REALTOR® with Dudum Real Estate in Walnut Creek, Calif., says, “Everyone aspires to have more than they have.” In a 2007 study, researchers found that people’s enjoyment of wine increased in tune with the wine’s perceived price — even when it wasn’t actually expensive.

Think of your home as the luxury, brand-name product, and all of the other houses on a buyer’s list as the generic version. Those homes might have a new roof as well, but when it comes to falling in love with a house, it’s that fancy label — aka, the chic bath salts or fancy wine decanter on display — that could make all the difference.

“You stage appropriate to the price range but [staging makes it feel] a notch above,” Fisher says. “[Buyers] want to feel like it’s a move up.”

Of course, different brands have different identities. How can you know that luxury is the right brand to convey to house hunters? In another “Psychology Today” article, Brent McFerran, Ph.D., explains that consumers’ desire to make luxury purchases is tied to their desire to showcase their accomplishments. What could be a better representation of someone’s accomplishments than their home?

When a home appears luxurious, it promises aspirational home buyers the lifestyle they have worked so hard to earn. They deserve to live in a house with fancy wine decanters and an orchid in the bathroom. They’ve earned it.
Leveraging Luxury (Affordably!)

What’s that? Your home isn’t already laden with luxury goods? The good news is that it doesn’t take many luxury items — or any genuinely expensive ones — to create an upscale look for your home staging. Overstock discount stores like HomeGoods or Burlington Coat Factory are great places to find fancy, brand-name items like those bath salts or top-of-the-line bed linen sets at a bargain.

When it comes to the staging items you were going to get anyway, sometimes the right item makes a subtle but impactful difference. In an article for “Houzz,” Kristie Barnett, known as “The Decorologist,” recommends overstuffed, oversized throw pillows. They’re not much more expensive than smaller pillows (a 26-inch pillow stuffed into a 20-inch cover from Ikea will run you about $15), and they add a seriously luxurious touch to the living room. Another inexpensive luxury tip from Barnett: Paint interior doors black. Who knew your doors were one cheap, easy coat of paint away from seriously chic?

Finally, when choosing luxury items for your home staging, be sure to focus on the lifestyle you’re promoting. Yes, those bath salts in that elegant glass jar are beautiful on their own, but the reason you’re using them is to recreate the feeling of a spa in your bathroom. Support that beautifully scented splurge with fresh, white towels, decorative baskets, and maybe even a small bamboo plant.

Sound like the kind of bathroom you’d like to call home? With any luck, that’s what house hunters will think too. You already know your well-maintained home is the best rational choice for the right buyer; this easy staging strategy can make it the obvious emotional choice as well. There’s nothing like a little note of luxury to tug at their hearts and help them envision your house as their future home.
Source: HouseLogic Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-thoughts/home-staging-tips/#ixzz40aUsUr3u 

Luxury Living in South Texas

If you've ever considered owning your own ranch, 

this might be the home for you!






This beautiful 5 bedroom, 1 story home on over 20 acres of land with an agriculture exemption for taxes. The home features a welcoming front porch, tile floors, gourmet kitchen, two fireplaces, a huge covered patio and adjoining open deck. 







Of course with an that land you'll also need a barn, tack room, arena and cross fencing which is included in the price. 
And when you want to kick back and relax, there's a great pool and hot tub for you as well.

If this sounds like the home for you, it can be yours for just under 
$1.4 million dollars.


If this sounds like the home you've been dreaming about, 
or you'd like to know  about others, contact me, 
by using the form on the right. 
Christine Henderson
Changing Real Estate Dreams Into Reality Since 1985

Luxury Living in South Texas

Looking for a new homestead? 

Hankering for your own cattle ranch? 




If you have $1.5 million available in cash, 
a line of credit or just won the lottery, 
you'll be able to buy a 100 + acres 
and have money leftover to buy 
some cattle and feed as well.






This ranch includes 4 fenced grazing pastures, 
two water tanks, private well, a barn for horses, 
cows & hay plus a workshop. 

And there a great looking home with lots of room 
to grow a family to help run the ranch!


If this sounds like the home you've been dreaming about, 
or you'd like to know  about others, contact me, 
by using the form on the right. 

Christine Henderson
Changing Real Estate Dreams Into Reality Since 1985

NAR Housing Report: Is Homeownership is a Good Financial Decision?

Every quarter the National Association of Realtors does a survey with a series of questions to home owners and renters. On a weekly basis I will be give updates on these reports. Here's the initial points covered in the report

According to the report, these are the statistics for those who believe home ownership is a good decision. Here's the details by categories:

88 % of U.S. households believe owning a home is a good financial decision. 
76 % of those people strongly believe it’s a good decision 

Older households more frequently view home ownership as a good financial decision.

By the Numbers: Home ownership is a good decision according to... 
89 % of White/Caucasian households, 
88 % of Black households 
84 % of Asian households 
82 % of Hispanic/Latino households believe ownership

By the Numbers: Those who believe home ownership is a good financial decision
according to College Education
89 % of those with some college education 
85 % of those with no college education

87 % of U.S. households believe homeownership is part of their American Dream. 
72 % believe it strongly and 15 percent moderately. 

Believing home ownership is part of their American Dream
89 % of those 65 and over 
87 % with at least some college education  

Among U.S. households who believe home ownership is part of their American Dream the most appealing aspects of home ownership were: 
A place to raise a family—36% 
Owning place of one’s own—26%  
A nest egg for retirement—14%
Financial security now—13% 
Being part of a community—8% 
Settling down—4%

Source: NAR Home Survey December 2015

Luxury Living in South Texas

Looking for a new homestead? 

Here's what you can buy  for  $1,000,000- $1.200,000 


If  outdoor living is more your "hot button"

in looking for a home you have plenty of  

options here including a covered outdoor 

kitchen to take in all the outside action


There's also a guest house for when you might 

need a time out or have guests come to stay 

and all can have their privacy in the morning.





If this sounds like the home you've been dreaming about, or you'd like to know 

about others, contact me, by using the form on the right. 

Christine Henderson
Changing Real Estate Dreams Into Reality Since 1985 

Fit a Small Office in Your Small Home

Setting up a small office in your small home means finding new uses for closets and other tucked-away spaces.

Yes, you can! Squeeze a small office into your small home, that is. But that doesn’t mean you have to take over one of the kids’ bedrooms—just look for under-utilized space.

After that, it’s decision time: How much to spend, how big to make the office, and how you’ll use it.

Here are five solutions to consider:
1. Kitchen helper. From a $400 store-bought island for bill-paying to a breakfast bench nook with file drawers built in under the seats (cost: $5,000 to $15,000), your kitchen is a treasure trove of small office possibilities. Even a slide-out cutting board (about $500 in a cabinet package) can serve as a nifty desktop.

2. Closet conversion. Get rid of unused stuff or consolidate it in another area, and a 3- to 8-foot-wide closet accommodates a built-in desk, shelves, and lighting. Make a nearby chair do double duty for your desk.

With doors and wiring for lighting and a phone, and possible added drywall, your new small office would cost $2,000 to $4,000. Keep in mind that the more floors and walls that wiring has to travel through, the costlier it gets.

3. Porch possibilities. Convert that long, narrow space on the side of your small home that gets only seasonal use to a year-round office for about $15/sq. ft. Use plug-in space heaters and fans for your HVAC system.

Use inexpensive, freestanding shelves to provide storage space. Cost: About $70 for a 30-inch-by-80-inch bookshelf.

4. Those out-of-the-way spaces. Alcoves, lofts, stair landings, basement and garage corners, and bedroom nooks qualify as potential office space. Use freestanding shelving units and bookcases. Plants or privacy screens can “wall” the area without making it feel smaller.

You can build a bench for visitors with storage space inside for about $130. Want a craftsman to build it for you? Add another $300 to $400.

5. Under-used dining rooms. Formal dining rooms can be overrated. If yours isn’t being used regularly, convert it to a small office. You’ll be close to your main entry, making it easy to receive clients and business associates. If a nearby kitchen or other busy household area is a noisy distraction, install French or sliding doors as acoustic barriers.

Source: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-offices-studios/fit-small-office-your-small-home/#ixzz3x5LbudfQ