What Home Improvements Are Tax Deductible?
How Capital Improvements Affect Your Gain
Watch Out for These Basis-Busters
By: Donna Fuscaldo for HouseLogic
By: Donna Fuscaldo for HouseLogic
Get ready for your open house — stress-free — by starting early and breaking down your to-do list into manageable chunks. Use this timeline of 35 tips and your house will stand out from the competition on open house day.
Four weeks before the open house
Three weeks before the open house
Two weeks before the open house
One week before the open house
Week of the open house
Day before the open house
Day of the open house
One hour before the open house
15 minutes before the open house
During the open house
Get out of the house and let the REALTOR® sell it! Potential buyers will be uncomfortable discussing your home if you’re loitering during the open house. Take advantage of your child- and pet-free hours by treating yourself to something you enjoy — a few extra hours at the gym, a trip to the bookstore, or a manicure.
By Dona DeZube. Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
Whether you are planning to put your house on the market and are trying to improve its curb appeal, OR if you just want to enjoy your home a bit more, here are some great do-it-yourself ideas you can do over the weekend for under $300!
Most of the cost of these DIY weekend projects is in the materials. The labor — that’s you — is free. All you need now are the hours. But, hey, you’ve got two full days — plenty of time to be a superhero weekend warrior and grab some R&R.
The setup: Install an eye-catching portal to your garden with a freestanding arbor. It’ll look great at the end of a garden path or framing a grassy area between planting beds.
Specs and cost: Garden arbors can be priced up to thousands of dollars, but you can find nice-looking kits in redwood, cedar, and vinyl at your local home improvement or garden center for $200 to $300. Typical sizes are about 7 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide. You’ll have to assemble the kit yourself.
Tools: Screwdriver; cordless drill/driver; hammer; tape measure. Kits come pre-cut and pre-drilled for easy assembly, and usually include screws. If fasteners aren’t included, check the materials list before you leave the store.
Time: 3 to 5 hours
The setup: Summer is super, but too much sunlight from south- and west-facing windows can heat up your interiors and make your AC work overtime. Beat that heat and save energy by using an awning to stop harsh sunlight before it enters your house.
Specs and cost: Residential awnings come in many sizes and colors. Some are plastic or aluminum, but most are made with weatherproof fabrics. They’re engineered for wind resistance, and some are retractable. A 4-foot-wide awning with a 2.5-foot projection is $150 to $250.
Tools: Cordless drill/driver; adjustable wrench; tape measure; level. You can install an awning on any siding surface, but you’ll need a hammer drill to drill holes in brick. To prevent leaks, fill any drilled holes with silicone sealant before you install screws and bolts.
Time: 3 to 4 hours
The setup: Air conditioning is great, but air conditioner condensers are ugly. Up your curb appeal quotient by hiding your AC condenser or heat pump unit with a simple screen.
Specs and costs: An AC screen is typically three-sided, about 40 inches high, and freestanding — you’ll want to be able to move it easily when it comes time to service your HVAC. For about $100, you can make a screen yourself using weather-resistant cedar or pressure-treated wood to build three frames, and filling each frame with plastic or pressure-treated lattice.
Or, buy pre-made fencing panels. A 38-inch-by-38-inch plastic fencing panel is about $50.
Tools: Hammer; saw; cordless drill/driver; measuring tape; galvanized wood screws.
Time: Build it yourself in four to six hours. Install pre-made fencing in one to two hours.
The setup: Shopping for garage storage solutions is definitely a kid-in-the-candy-store experience. There are so many cool shelves, hooks, and hangers available that you’ll need to prioritize your needs. Take stock of long-handled landscape tools, bikes, paint supplies, ladders, and odd ducks, such as that kayak. Measure your available space so you’ll have a rough idea of where everything goes.
Specs and cost: Set your under-$300 budget, grab a cart, and get shopping. Many storage systems are made to be hung on drywall, but hooks and heavy items should be fastened directly to studs. Use a stud finder ($20) to locate solid framing.
If your garage is unfinished, add strips of wood horizontally across studs so you’ll have something to fasten your storage goodies to. An 8-foot-long 2-by-4 is about $2.50.
Tools: Cordless drill/driver; hammer; level; measuring tape; screws and nails.
Time: This is a simple project, but not a fast one. Figure six to 10 hours to get everything where you want it, plus shopping. But, oh the fun in putting everything in its place!
If you want to do something really inexpensive, DIY a simple overhead bin system. All you need is plywood, plastic bins, some tools, and a weekend.
The setup: Edging is a great way to define your planting beds, corral garden mulch, and to separate your lawn from your garden or patio.
Specs and cost: Wood and metal edging looks like tiny fencing; they’re 4 to 6 inches high. Some include spikes that hold the edging in position; other types must be partially buried. Cost is $1 to $5 per foot.
Plastic edging can be molded and colored to mimic brick, wood, and stone. About $20 for 10 feet.
Concrete edging blocks are smooth, or textured to resemble stone. $15 to $25 for 10 feet.
Real stone edging is installed flush with the surrounding grade in a shallow trench on a bed of sand, so digging is required. Stone is sold by the ton and prices vary by region. You’ll need about one-third of a ton of flagstone to make an 8-inch-wide edging 50 feet long, costing $150 to $200.
Tools: Shovel; wheelbarrow; tin snips (for cutting plastic edging); work gloves.
Time: Pre-made edging will take two to three hours for 50 feet; stone will take six to 10 hours.
By: John Riha for Houselogic
If this year is anything like the last, almost 7.2 million Americans will get a tax refund this spring averaging around $3,000. If you’re a homeowner getting this refund, you’re fortunate because you’ve got more creative ways to invest it for a profit. Doesn’t matter if you’re selling, staying put, or stuck in the middle. Here are three homeowner-only options to grow that refund:
1. If You’re Early Into Your Mortgage
It may not be as instantly gratifying as a treehouse vacation in Costa Rica, but spending your tax refund to pay down your mortgage principal could save you enough funds to take a splurge-loaded vacation a bit later.
Let’s assume you have a 30-year-loan at the average loan amount of $292,000, a 4.5% interest rate, and you’re getting that average refund of about $3,000. If you apply that “found” money to your principal each year, CPA Micah Fraim of Roanoke, Va., says you can shave years off your mortgage — in this case, nearly four. That’s about 95 mortgage payments you won’t need to make! Even better is the more than $70,000 that you’ll save in interest payments over the life of the loan.
If you don’t want to make an annual commitment, think about this: Make that payment just once and you’ll cut seven months off your payments and save more than $8,000 in interest. And when you decide to sell, you’ll have more equity.
2. If You’re Planning to Sell
Invest it in staging, and you may be surprised by how quickly your home gets plucked from the market.
“Staging lets prospective buyers see the space as their own, instead of as belonging to the people who currently live there,” said Ashley Lewkowicz, owner of Ashley Kay Design in Bucks County, Pa.
“A home that’s not staged can sit on the market for six months or more,” she added. “A home I recently staged sold in less than two.”
Not only is a faster sale better for your bank account in terms of saved mortgage payments and utility bills, but a drawn-out listing can cause a home’s price to wilt. That makes those throw pillows, decorative bath salts, and rented furniture way worth the investment.
For a large, suburban home in a major metro area, staging can cost about $2,000 upfront, and then about $500 per month for furniture and accessory rentals, according to Lewkowicz. But a faster sale at a higher price can definitely more than double your money over the course of the sales process.
And most staging can be accomplished with simple little touches.
3. If You’re a Home Improvement DIYer
Who knew your home could be your own personal ATM? For many DIYers, putting that $3,000 tax return into small home improvements can result in getting far more than their investment out of the house later.
If you’re willing to scope materials yourself and put in a little elbow grease, your tax return can fund a renovation for you to enjoy now and reap the financial benefits later.
By: Alaina Tweddale on HouseLogic.com
Torrance is a great city in which to live. The city has many programs for individuals, families and kids. One of Torrance’s great treasures is the Madrona Marsh Preserve and Nature Center, one of the last marshlands in the area, and great natural habitat for birds, small animals and plants.
Learn about California native food plants for containers in this Saturday’s class, which is part of the free Native Plant Gardening series at Madrona Marsh Nature Center in Torrance.
Instructor: CSUDH Professor Connie Vadheim
Saturday, March 5, 2016
10:00 a.m. – Noon
Madrona Marsh Nature Center
3201 Plaza Del Amo
Torrance, CA 90503
After the presentation, Connie will lead the class through the nature center’s native plant garden to illustrate key points and inspire further discussion. Handouts are included.
This class is best for adults.
Free! Donations are greatly appreciated.
For more information please contact the Madrona Marsh Nature Center at 310-782-3989.
Friends of Madrona Marsh website.