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Tax Tips for New Homeowners in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

It’s tax time, and many dread the prep and thought of paying them.  There are some deductions homeowners can take, so if this is your first time filing as a homeowner, make sure you get the maximum tax benefits out of your new home. 

 

  • - Homeowners can claim their mortgage interest for a tax deduction. On the chance that you’re using tax return software, it will calculate your deduction after you answer questions about your home purchase.  If you’d rather use an accountant or tax prep service to help you, they can answer all your questions. 
     

  • - If you moved more than fifty miles because of your job, or starting a new one, your expenses are tax deductible.  There are some time stipulations as well, according to number one in this guide from taxact.com;  make sure you meet the requirements before taking this deduction.
     

  • - Making your home more energy efficient by installing a solar energy system or solar water heater make you eligible for a thirty percent credit for parts and labor.  Unfortunately, the credit for geothermal heat pumps and small wind turbines has expired. https://www.energy.gov/savings/residential-renewable-energy-tax-credit 
     

  • - Are you self-employed and use a room or section of your living area for a home office?  There’s a deduction for that.  The IRS has a couple of requirements, and if you don’t want to go through figuring up the standard deduction, they offer a simplified deduction, but choose which method takes more off your tax responsibility. 
     

  • - Did you pay “points” to the bank to get a better interest rate? If so, that money is tax deductible. Since points are usually 1% of your home loan, if your loan was $250,000, your tax break would be $2,500 for paying down one point. 
     

  • - Any property taxes are tax deductible, beginning the official date that you purchase the home, which is usually on your settlement statement you receive at closing. 
     

  • - Hopefully, this hasn’t happened in your first year in your new home, but if you’ve had something unfortunate happen that insurance didn’t cover, there is a casualty loss deduction for out-of-pocket expenses.  The repair cost must be more than 10% of your gross income. 

 

Don’t let all this information scare you away from doing your own taxes!  No matter how you decide to file, gather everything you would normally use to file taxes, but make sure you have the 1098 mortgage interest form from the lender, property tax receipts, and any paperwork you saved from the casualty loss repairs or alternative energy installments. Home ownership has many benefits for the homeowner, and you should take advantage of every penny you have worked so hard for to put into your new home. 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: realtor.com

Getting Organized on a Budget for New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Your dream closet comes complete with drawers, shoe shelves, a complete vanity and a hefty price tag. Other organizational organizing gadgets and pieces can cost quite a bit as well, but there are a multitude of ways to get organized without spending a lot 

 

Closets 

  • - A chain plant hanger is perfect for hanging shirts and blouses to save valuable room.  Chains also come in a variety of sizes and finishes, and is available year-round at most hardware stores. 

  • - Mount a short curtain rod on the inside of the closet door to hang scarves, and use clip-style curtain rings to hang hats and gloves in the Winter. 

  • - Tension rods placed at top and bottom of your closet can extend your hanging space for lighter items, like blouses and shirts. Or add shower curtain hooks to keep purses, scarves or ties handy.  

  • This use of tension rods for shoe storage is awesome and easy! 

  • - A large piece of sturdy wire mesh from a hardware or farm supply store, and even pegboard cut to fit any spare wall space in your closet can be installed virtually flat. S-hooks make perfect hangers awkward-shaped items, and ties and scarves can be stored flat. 

  • - Closet space can vary, and if you’ve already utilized every inch, consider a wardrobe.  Scan online yard sale groups, flea markets and auctions for inexpensive pieces, add some paint to compliment your decor, and you have a custom wardrobe! 

 

In the Kitchen 

  • - A clean egg carton or small muffin tin is perfect for keeping things organized in the catch-all drawer. 

  • - If your cabinets make it hard to find pots and pans that you need, consider hanging them! Pot racks can be made from many things, and if you’re feeling a project coming on, here’s a great DIY pallet rack to try! 

  • - Use inexpensive dollar store baskets in your pantry for pull-out organization of cans, spices and baking items.  The baskets keep them neat, and easy to get to. 

  • - An unused cookie jar is perfect for keeping cooking utensils handy and out of a junky drawer. 

  • - A wall file-holder attached to the inside of a cabinet door is transformed into a plastic container lid holder. 

  • - Mount a long piece of magnetic tape to your backsplash to hold knives and other often-used utensils for easy access. (Make sure the kids can’t reach them, though!) 

 

Bedrooms 

  • - Use a bookshelf as a headboard to create space for books, (obviously), remotes, glasses, morning medicines or display items. 

  • - Under-the-bed storage is essential for seasonal clothes, shoes, toys, old photos--anything you don’t use daily.  Suitcases, old dresser drawers (with adhesive felt or wheels on the bottom), inexpensive plastic storage containers, and vacuum-sealed storage bags make the most of this space. 

  • - Is your makeup kept in a jumbled drawer or cosmetic bag? This DIY magnetic makeup board is a great way to keep it handy and easy to find. 

  • - The kids’ toys can stay better organized by using baskets in bookshelves, open shelving on their level, and benches with storage.  

 

Getting organized is on many New Year resolution lists, and if you’re serious about it, start by decluttering, and using what you can afford or DIY to make it happen.  Putting the home in order can be pretty, practical, and even cheap! 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: care2.com

House Hunting Homework for New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

There is plenty to do to prepare for buying your new home, and once you’re actively touring homes or stopping into an open house, you can draw a blank when it comes time to ask specifics.  Have some questions ready to prepare yourself so you won’t forget! 

 

Open House and Walkthrough 

  • - How long has the house been on the market, and are there any current offers? The length of time it’s been for sale can mean savings for you, or you may not want to bother if there are already multiple offers. 

  • - Why is the current owner selling?  This may seem like prying, and you may not get the exact answer, but it can add flexibility to price negotiations if the owner is ready for a fast sale. 

  • - Ask for a seller’s disclosure before you think about making an offer. Check this list for your state’s info about what the seller must tell you before buying the house. 

  • - How old is the roof? An older roof that has issues can either cost in the long run, or give you a discount on the sale price if it need replacing. 

  • - If it isn’t obvious, ask when the house was last updated.  With people living longer, some could have lived in the same home for fifty years and done nothing else besides redecorating. 

  • - Condition of the home’s systems are important, so inquire about the age of the water heater, electric, plumbing, security and climate control systems. 

  • - How is the home heated and insulated, including the attic?  You need to have a good idea of what your utilities will cost, and heating can be expensive, whether it’s propane, electric, or geothermal if the insulation needs improving. 

  • - Has the house been treated for pests on a regular basis?  This can keep a lot of headaches at bay in the long run. 

  • - What is included in the sale price, and are any warranties still active?  You don’t want to be surprised when you start moving in and find out you have to buy all new appliances. 

  • - You may be moving in the same general area, but a different city or county.  Property taxes vary per location, so make sure you know how much you will be paying if you eventually purchase the home. 

  • -If your prospective new home is in a historic district or homeowner’s association, there will be restrictions on how you renovate or build an addition, and fees for HOA.  Ask your realtor for these details. 

 

Pay Attention 

  • - While you’re on your walkthrough, pay attention to traffic and nearby surroundings.  Spend several minutes outside in the front and back yards and listen for any traffic noise, or a noisy possible neighbor. 

  • - Is your prospective new home on a busy shortcut street in the mornings and evenings?  Make time to discover for yourself and drive through on your way to or from work. 

  • - Look closely at fresh paint jobs for cracks or possible mold.  Sometimes, that new paint is covering up a problem. 

  • - Check your mobile phone for signal strength.  Different areas can be dead zones. 

  • - Drive through the area one evening after most people are home from work.  Is there plenty of parking available? 

 

Using these opportunities to find all the information you can about a potential new home is imperative when you know you’ll be looking at many different homes on the market.  Do your homework--keep a list of questions on your mobile phone’s notepad app so you won’t forget anything, or use a clipboard if you’re looking at multiple houses, keeping this information better organized. Since buying a home will most likely be your biggest investment, you want to be certain your money will be spent wisely. 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: my.interiorsavings.com

Downsizing for Retirees or Empty Nesters

by Tucker Robbins

Your children have flown from the nest, or maybe retirement is not so far away.  Do you still need all of the space your current home has? Or maybe the idea of selling and buying a smaller home and save the profit for a boost to your retirement income.  Whatever the reason, many empty nesters and retirees are downsizing. Let’s look at these things to consider: 

 

  • - Downsizing can be a huge change for most, and planning for it is the key.  Talk with your partner, your family and friends, tell them of your thoughts, and have some of them help you start a Downsize Plan.  

  • - Think practically when you’re thinking about what sort of house you’d like to buy.  You don’t want to go so much smaller that you don’t feel at home.    

  • - Do you want to stay in the general area you are currently in, or do you want to move across the country? Maybe you’d like to have an adventure and travel.   

  • - Look at your budget and go through it very carefully.  Even with a home sale, your new place could be in a more expensive area, with property taxes and higher utility costs.  Choose carefully so you save more of the profit from the old house’s sale. 

  • - We don’t like to think about aging, but one consideration you should be taking is that if this will be your last home, make sure it will work for you as you get older.  In case of mobility issues later on, a single-story house that will be easier to maneuver around in, or one with a smaller yard for less maintenance is best when house-hunting. 

  • - The thought of maintaining our landscaping can make us groan as we get older in more ways than one, so consider a condominium or townhouse to relocate to. Be sure to ask if there are extra maintenance fees in these communities. 

  • - Once you make your decision, contact a realtor in the area with questions about the housing market, as they can assist you with figuring out how much your house would sell for, as well as finding a smaller and affordable home for you to buy or even consider a rental for a while. 

  • - Once you decide to sell and relocate, start the first step of the moving process of going through your belongings, and deciding what you’ll have room for in a smaller home.  This downsizing article from Sixty&Me.com has some extreme but practical advice to help you start this emotional task. - -Get the family involved if your children still have belongings stored in your attic or spare room. 

  • - If the thought of cutting out so many of your belongings is too daunting, find a professional organizer who can help.  Look for one that specializes in downsizing. 

  • - You have probably acquired a houseful of furniture, and a smaller home means less space to place what you have now.  Talk to family members who may want pieces that you have, sell some furniture, or donate practical items to a shelter or thrift store. 

 

Preparing for the later years in life can be daunting.  If you’re getting ready for retirement, or dreading the thought of the last child leaving home, downsizing and a new beginning can actually be something to look forward to.  Be sure to share your housing concerns and desires with your real estate agent, who will do all they can to find the perfect home for you to make every moment enjoyable for you for years to come. 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: debt.org

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Photo of Tucker Robbins Real Estate
Tucker Robbins
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
3838 Kennett Pike
Wilmington DE 19807
(302) 777-7744 (direct)