With a variety of tax breaks that come with home ownership, buying makes a lot of sense versus renting and paying someone else’s mortgage. Plus, think of all the money they’re getting back from Uncle Sam each year!
Taxes are one of those annual chores that generally bring people to tears, but for homeowners who know what they’re entitled to, tax time should bring smiles and hopefully fistfuls of cash. It’s going to require a little more effort to itemize, but any perceived hassles will be well worth it in the long run.
Here are six tax breaks that every homeowner should know about as we crawl closer to the tax filing deadline:
1. Mortgage Interest Deduction—When you pay your mortgage each month, the majority of that money goes towards interest at the beginning of your loan. A Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) allows you to deduct this amount from your taxes. Look for Form 1098 from your lender and keep it. It’s your proof of what you’re allowed to deduct to the IRS.
2. Energy Star—Energy Star appliances will give you yet another tax deduction. They’re good for the environment and also for your bank account! Only certain items qualify, like energy-efficient windows, doors and skylights. And you’ll need to install them by the end of the year to get a 10% tax credit of the product costs.
3. Mortgage Insurance Premiums—Do you pay private mortgage insurance (PMI)? You do if your mortgage has a loan-to-value ratio that is higher than 80%. This insurance protects your lender against default, and is also tax deductible if your AGI is less than $100,000 (married couples).
4. Construction Loan Interest—Remodeling your home is expensive, and if you don’t have the money saved, consider getting a construction loan. You may be able to deduct the interest during the first two years of the loan.
5. Points—It’s time to look back at your loan to see if you paid any fees to get your mortgage. If so, you’re entitled to a deduction of the fees during the year you paid them. This only works if your loan was for a primary residence though. There’s even better news for those who have refinanced; you can deduct the points over the life of the loan.
6. Property Taxes—It’s important to know how your property taxes are calculated. If yours are based on the assessed value of your real property, you’re in luck! You will be able to deduct state and local property taxes, but if you pay out of pocket versus through an escrow account, you will need to keep track of your bills. Those who pay with an escrow account will be able to find the amount on Form 1098.
There are so many different ways a client can find you and your listings online. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where they came from, what they searched, and how long they stayed? Knowing those bits of information could help you figure out what’s working best for your online presence.
Google Webmaster Tools is a free tool that provides statistics and data about your website, such as keyword rankings, impressions, and CTR’s (click through rates). By knowing how your website ranks for popular keyword searches, you can start to produce more relevant content to help boost your ranking. This would result in an increase in traffic to your website.
Ready to get started? Learn more about Google Webmaster Tools here: https://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=34592
Just because you have negative equity in your home doesn’t mean your hands are tied with regard to making it a home that works for you. In fact, there are a variety of upgrades that make a lot of sense for homeowners in this situation. If you were hoping to move-up to a larger home, but find yourself in a situation where you need to stay put for the time being, consider these upgrades that make sense for homeowners who are upside down.
- Make Cosmetic Changes—Upping your home’s curb appeal is a smart move even if you owe more than your home is worth. Painting shutters, adding new hardware like a mailbox or house numbers, and concentrating on your landscaping will boost your home’s value, and could help you refinance. Plus, if you do decide to you’re your home down the line, curb appeal will lure prospective buyers. Do it yourself to keep costs down.
- Wayward Expansion—As your family grows, so too does the need for more space. Capitalize on your home’s footprint by converting an unused garage or basement into a rental or in-law-type unit. These can be amazing investments to help you bring in additional income.
- Go Green—Creating a home that is more energy-efficient means more money in your pocket. You can shave lots of money off of your monthly bills, and also improve your own well-being. Consider solar panels to eliminate your electric bill entirely. If you can’t afford to purchase them, leasing may be an option. Tank-less water heaters are another simple fix that cut energy costs dramatically. Plus, often, green home improvements might qualify you for tax credits.
- Creating Larger Spaces—Are you plagued with a home that has tiny rooms that drive you crazy? For resale, the rule typically says that more bedrooms equal more money. However, if you have two tiny, unusable spaces, you may be better off knocking down a wall and creating a larger space, especially if you are planning to stay put for the foreseeable future. Consult with a contractor to see if your home can support such a change.
- Build-In—Creating storage space will not only make your life more organized and streamlined, but it’s also one of the first things home buyers look for when house hunting. Built-in work and storage spaces in your office, garage, craft rooms, and kitchen are useful and can give you the feel of a highly customized luxury home. The possibilities are endless, so look around your home and see where you can build-in.
It’s not always possible to close the deal on the first contact. In many cases, it may take many attempts to bring a customer into the fold with your organization. And while your marketing budget might not be huge, there are some cost-effective techniques that will help you “retarget” customers. They’ll help keep you in front of potential customers, allowing you several opportunities to win them over. The following tools are some helpful ways to retarget customers “who got away” – and keep them from swimming further away from you and your brand.
- Site Retargeting: By targeting users who have visited and left your site, you can segment your offerings (e.g. apartments, condominiums, etc.) to customize messages that can help steer them back in your direction. It allows you to offer incentives and includes a clear call to action. Sites like Adroll.com, Retargeter.com, and FetchBack.com all offer packages to fit your budget.
- Search Retargeting: By targeting users who are searching specific keywords, you can find sites that you feel are complementary to you and your brand. Services like Google Remarketing offer ways for your brand to get in front of the 90%+ who didn’t click through.
- Regional Retargeting: By targeting users on a regional basis, you can focus your efforts on customers who are searching for properties in your area. Sites like Simpli.fi and Chango.com allow you flexibility to market those users looking in the region(s) you serve. This will put your brand in front of users on any site they’re visiting – whether it’s Google, Yahoo, or CNN (or anywhere else their mouse takes them).
In this day and age of real estate, users are savvy and have a plethora of choices available to them. By using one (or all) of these retargeting techniques and services, you and your brand have a lot more options, too. Maybe even make you a bigger fish in a smaller pond!