Torrance is a Great Family Town

Looking for a great place for a young family? Check out Torrance!

Torrance schools are rated 9 out of 10 by Great! schools!  Torrance has 48 primary and secondary schools, with Richardson Middle School in south Torrance (go Rattlesnakes!), being rated one of the highest.  According to U.S. News, Torrance High School has a 99% graduation rate, followed closely by West High with 98%, and South and North at 97%.  South, West and North have all been awarded Silver Medals.

In addition to have great schools, the city of Torrance has wonderful, broad community programs.  The summer calendar below shows just some of the line up.  Great activities for the family to enjoy together, while enjoying our great weather!

>>> PRINTABLE VERSION <<<  Perfect for your refrigerator so your family doesn’t miss a single fun activity this summer in Torrance!

To learn about all of the many programs, see the City of Torrance Summer 2017 Seasons online PDF booklet here.

Interested in what homes are available for your family?

Please call me, Lucy Garber, at (310) 293-4866 so I can talk to you and help you find the perfect house for your family to call home.

How to Beat the Heat this Summer

10 Easy Steps to Keep Your Air Conditioning Unit Running Smoothly

1. Shut off the power

2. Remove debris

3. Clean the fin

4. Straighten the fins

5. Clean area around the unit

6. Level the unit

7. Clean the evaporator coil

8. Clean a plugged evaporator drain

9. Change the blower filter

10. Turn the power back on

And Don’t Forget…

  • Have a professional HVAC company inspect your unit
  • Check refrigerant levels
  • Check your thermostat

Tip for Step 2
On the exterior condenser/compressor, remove the fan cage. Using a screwdriver or wrench, remove the fasteners and lift the cage or fan grill away from the top of the unit. By hand, or with a wet/dry vacuum, clean leaves and other debris from the interior.

Tip for Step 4
Since any reduction in air-flow through the fins can reduce efficiency, carefully straighten  bent fins using a butter knife or commercially available fin-straightening tool. be gentle so that the tubing embedded within the fins it not damaged.

How to DIY Your Taxes — and Not Miss a Single Deduction

Tips on choosing tax preparation software to help get all the homeowner benefits.

Ready or not, the tax man’s coming. Filing your taxes yourself may not be your idea of a fun night at home, but even so, it doesn’t really have to be that bad. Yes, even if you own a home. Even if you itemize your deductions. Even if you’re scared of making a mistake.

We turned to the tax pros and nailed down their top tips to make DIY tax filing as easy and painless as possible — as well as how to ensure you don’t miss any possible deductions. Here’s what they said:

Pick the Right Software

Unless you qualify for a free version (more about this below), software prices are all over the place. Still, you get what you pay for. TurboTax is pricey at almost $60 for the Deluxe version, but both our tax experts agree: If you’re going the DIY route, it’s their favorite option.

“It’s user-friendly,” says Cathy Derus, founder of Brightwater Accounting, who, despite being a CPA, admits she’s used the program herself in the past. “It offers an online questionnaire. Then, it walks you through exactly what you need to do.” That questionnaire does a good job of helping you identify possible deductions.

But it’s not fail-safe, she added. It’s only as good as the information you feed into it.

To really make sure you’re aware of all possible deductions, get a copy of Form 1040, Schedule A, (and Schedule C if you’re a sole proprietor for your own business), says Derus. Then, “scan the forms and take note of any items you think you might be eligible to take.”

If you’re a homeowner, here are some examples of deductions you can take:

Mortgage interest
Property taxes
Some costs of buying a new home
Some costs of selling a home
For a full list of your possible homeowner deductions, go here.

Free Software Can Be Ok, Too

If your adjusted gross income is below a certain threshold — typically $62,000 — you may qualify to use one of about a dozen free software options. TurboTax has a free option, but its income threshold is lower at $31,000. H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and TaxACT also have free versions.

Some companies also impose other restrictions, such as age and state of residence, to qualify for a free version. That’s because for some firms, the free offering is a way to find clients who might be willing to pay for other services.

Watch for extra costs:Some companies will file your federal return for free, but then charge you for the state return, to e-file, or ask questions of a live person.

Filing for an Extension Can Be a Smart Thing to Do

If you find yourself butting up against the tax filing deadline, you can always request an extension, “so you’re not stressed out,” says Derus.

Most people don’t fully understand how extensions work, and often make mistakes that cost a bundle. Here’s what you need to know:

How to file a tax extension:

File an extension anytime before or on April 15. You’ll avoid the late filing penalty, which is a whopping 5% of your outstanding balance, due for every month you’ve failed to file.
If you owe money, pay as much as you can by April 15 to avoid the late payment penalty of 0.05% interest. (A whole lot less than the late filing penalty, though!)
Make arrangements to complete your tax filing by the October 15 deadline to avoid adding extra interest payments.
Get the Benefits of E-Filing

You’ve probably already been e-filing your taxes, but are you aware of the benefits?

Why it’s better to e-file:

24 hours after you e-file, you can start checking on your return via the IRS’s “Where’s My Refund” online tool or IRS2Go app.
You’ll get any refund due to you faster.
You’re also more likely to know if you filed your forms correctly, avoiding a scary encounter with the tax man. Because if you e-file, you’ve got to use software. And these programs “run a check for questions that need to be answered, numbers that don’t add up, and missing Social Security numbers,” says Tai Stewart, accountant and owner of Saidia Financial Solutions in Houston. Those mistakes tend to flag your return for a close-up review.

You’ll also wait up to six weeks for your return if you use snail mail.

So, what are you waiting for? “Fill a pot of coffee, and get to work,” encourages Derus.

 

By: Alaina Tweddale

Are There Dangers in Your Entryway? Don’t Get Spooked!

halloween-house-dangers-entryway

Do Halloween Dangers Lurk at Your Entryway? Don’t get spooked. Take this opportunity to be sure you are Halloween safe.

Everyone loves a good scare on Halloween — as long as it’s just a trick.

To help you avoid any real-life scares — such as falls, fires, and traffic accidents — around your property this All Hallows Eve, play it safe while you’re setting up your Halloween lights and decorations.

Here are seven simple precautions recommended by John Pettibone, curator of Hammond Castle, a Gloucester, Mass., mansion that draws thousands to its renowned 20-room haunted house every Halloween season.

1. Light the Scene

Providing plenty of illumination ensures that your visitors can see where they’re walking, helping to avoid missteps and falls. Pettibone suggests using the highest wattage bulbs your outdoor lighting fixtures can safely take (check the label on the socket), and adding landscape lights every few feet along your front walk.

“We use the solar-powered kind because there’s no wiring needed,” he says. “Just push them into the ground, let them soak up the sun during the day, and they’ll light up the walk after dark.”

2. Secure the Footing

Clear your walk, steps, and stoop of any obstructions that could trip youngsters focused more on tricks and treats than watching where they’re going. That means moving potted mums and jack o’lanterns out of the way, and hammering down any nail heads protruding out of your steps.
If you have a concrete stoop, which can get slippery when wet, apply friction tape ($16 for a 60-foot roll of 1-inch-wide tape) to ensure stable footing, says Pettibone. He also stocks up on chemical ice melt ($20 for a 50-lb. bag) just in case of an early freeze.

3. Tighten the Railings

If your porch railings are wobbly or broken, family members and friends may know not to lean too heavily on them, but Halloween visitors won’t. So hire a contractor or handyman to fix the problem. It’ll make your home safer for guests all year round. Because more strangers come to your front door this night than the rest of the year combined, now is the time to take care of it.

4. Eliminate Fire Hazards

Don’t put real candles into your carved pumpkins or paper lanterns. “That’s a fire waiting to happen,” says Pettibone. Instead, pick up a bulk pack of LED-bulb faux candles, which emit a yellowish, flickering, battery-powered light that looks amazingly similar to the real thing — without the danger.

5. Secure your Property

To prevent burglaries and Halloween pranks — especially on mischief night the previous evening — make sure to keep all windows and doors (other than your main door) locked shut.

You might have an electrician add motion-sensor lights around your property, so anyone who walks down your driveway or around into the backyard will be discouraged from intruding any farther.

6. Set the Scene

In addition to spooky items like cotton cobwebs and half-buried skeletons, consider a few safety-related scene-setters. Pettibone suggests propping open the screen or storm door so it doesn’t get in the way when there’s a big group of kids congregated on your stoop. “We use yellow caution tape to tie open the door,” he says. “You can order it online and it works well with the Halloween theme.” A 1,000-ft. roll of 3-inch-wide caution tape is about $8.

You’ll also want a working doorbell, so if yours is broken, either hire an electrician or handyman to fix it — or install a wireless doorbell in its place.

7. Enhance Street Safety

Four times as many child pedestrians get killed on Halloween night than a normal night. So limit the danger as much as you can by clearing parked cars off the curb to allow better visibility and placing a reflective “watch for children sign” at the edge of the road. For for high-traffic roads in Halloween-intensive neighborhoods, consider posting an adult in the street with a hand-held traffic control light to help maintain safety.

Should You Be Worried if Your Mortgage Is Sold?

has your mortgage been sold?

You open your mail and you receive a (another?) notice that the mortgage for your home has been sold to another financial institution. You know to send your monthly payment to another address and your mortgage statements now come from a different company. But should you be worried?

The process of applying for and maintaining payments on a mortgage can be complex — primarily because of what happens behind the scenes. To make it even more confusing, the company that originally lent you the money to buy your new home will likely sell your mortgage to an investor. This is called the secondary mortgage market.

What’s the secondary mortgage market?

This is where investors — such as Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, pension funds, hedge funds, other mortgage companies, and banks, for example — purchase assets or loans, including mortgages, as well as the bonds that finance these assets.

While lenders tend to hold high-balance loans in their portfolio, they usually sell most mortgages because that’s the easiest way a lender can generate cash to make new mortgages. Without the secondary mortgage market, lenders wouldn’t be able to originate as many mortgages as they do.

Investors like snapping up mortgages because they’re backed by a tangible asset that you can see and touch, and that builds value over time — your home. Generally, house values go up, but in the event that they don’t and a borrower defaults, the equity in the home, or your down payment, is intended to cover this loss. This is why most lenders restrict a mortgage’s loan-to-value ratio, or LTV, to 80% of the house value.

Does this sale affect me, the borrower?

Yes, and it starts at the application process. But you shouldn’t be worried; it’s nothing you haven’t probably already heard about, especially if you’re been doing your homework. (And law protects you from abuses by the new owner of your loan).

For a lender to be able to sell in the secondary mortgage market, the loans need to meet the requirements of the investor buying them; it makes sense that investors are willing to pay more for higher-quality mortgages.

In essence, mortgages are underwritten so that they can be sold for the best possible price. This is why underwriting guidelines can be strict and why lenders want to see proof of employment and income to make sure you can afford to repay the loan without stretching your budget.

The interest rate you’re offered also reflects the price that investors will pay for your mortgage — and lenders use all kinds of info such as credit score and debt-to-income ratios to determine your overall mortgage-worthiness (read: likelihood of repayment). It’s easier to sell a mortgage in the secondary market when an investor is confident the borrower is unlikely to default.

What happens to borrowers who can’t repay?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) works to protect someone who is struggling to pay the mortgage. Even though a new company now owns the loan, this company still has to follow standards to collect on a delinquent mortgage. To prevent servicer abuses, servicers are required to reach out to borrowers to help them solve the problem through options such as a loan modification or short sale before foreclosing on a loan. Servicers are also required to inform borrowers about interest rate changes and balances, for example, so that there are no surprises.

Will the terms change once my mortgage is sold?

Mortgages can be modified, but not unless the borrower and lender both agree on the new terms. The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which also is enforced by the CFPB, prohibits lenders and servicers, as well as any subsequent companies that own your loan, from changing the terms of your mortgage without your consent.

Unless you ask that the interest rate or another term on the note be changed and the lender or new owner agrees, or you agree to a change the lender or new owner proposes, the new owner of your mortgage can’t make any changes.

Still confused?

Call or text me, Lucy Garber, at (310) 293-4866. With over 20 years in the real estate industry, I understand how real estate financing works.