New Tax Law Changes

January 18th, 2019

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 increased the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples.  There will be some instances that homeowners may be better off taking the standard deduction than itemizing their deductions.  In the past, homeowners would most likely be better off itemizing but the $10,000 limit of state and local taxes (SALT) adds one more issue to consider.

Let’s look at a hypothetical homeowner to see how a strategy that has been around for years could benefit them now even though they haven’t used it in the past.  The strategy is called bunching; by timing the payments in a tax year so that they can be combined to make a larger deduction.

Here’s a great example:

Let’s say that the married couple filing jointly has a $285,000 mortgage at 5% for 30 years that has about $14,000 in interest being paid.  The property taxes are $6,000 and they have $4,000 a year in charitable contributions for a total of $24,000 of allowable itemized deductions on Schedule A.

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Since that deduction amount is the same as the Standard Deduction, there is no monetary advantage one way or the other.  However, if the taxpayers were to pay their interest because they must make timely house payments but only pay $2,000 of the 2018 property taxes in December of 2018 and the balance of the $4,000 in January, they transfer part of the deduction into 2019.

Additionally, if they make their intended charitable contribution for 2018 in January of 2019, it makes that deductible on the 2019 return.

Since the total deductible amounts paid out in 2018 was $16,000, the taxpayers would have an $8,000 benefit that year from taking the Standard Deduction.

Assuming they made the same $4,000 charitable contribution in 2019 during the year and paid the house payment and property taxes on time, their total deductions for 2019 would be $32,000 which is $8,000 more than the Standard Deduction.

In this example, the taxpayers in 2018 and 2019, would benefit a total of $16,000 in tax deductions by bunching and electing to take the standard deduction one year and itemizing the next.

This is only an example but if your situation is similar, it might benefit you to consider an alternative when to take the standard deduction and when to itemize.  This is a conversation you need to have with your tax professional to see if it would work for you.

Be sure your CPA informs you of these changes so that you can take advantage of the savings for this tax year that’s now upon us. 

New Tax Law Changes

January 8th, 2019

Taxpayers need to be aware of basic changes even if a professional does their returns for them.  

Some of the new laws are good for your income bracket and some aren’t so good.  Of course you should seek out a CPA to help with your year end taxes.

Tax Provisions Affecting Individuals for 2018
  • There are still seven tax brackets, but the tax rates are lowered to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.
  • The standard deduction has almost doubled from the prior year to $12,000 for individuals and to $24,000 for married couples.
  • Personal and dependency exemptions are eliminated.
  • Child Tax Credit has increased to $2,000 and expands the refundable tax portion of the credit to $1,400.
  • Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption amount has been increased to $109,400 for married filling joint and surviving spouses and $70,300 for other filers.
  • Individual Healthcare Mandate penalty has been eliminated for individuals who fail to maintain minimum essential health care coverage, but only for years after 12/31/2018. The penalty is still applicable for 2018.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit is still available for low to middle-income wage earners, which can be over $6,000 for a family with three kids.
  • Taxpayers, who itemize, can deduct up to $10,000 in state and local income taxes, sales tax and real estate taxes.
  • Mortgage interest deduction is capped on new home loans of $750,000, and no longer includes home equity line of credit (HELOC) interest.
  • A deduction is allowed for qualified medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of adjusted gross income.
Tax Provisions Affecting Business Owners for 2018
  • Lowers the corporate tax rate to 21%, and the tax rate for Personal Service Corporations is also lowered to 21%.
  • Repeals Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).
  • Allows sole proprietors and passthrough businesses a 20% deduction of its Qualified Business Income (QBI). Specified Service Trades and Businesses (SSTB) are not eligible for the deduction, if the taxpayer’s taxable income before the QBI deduction is over $415,000 if filing MFJ or over $207,500 if filing Single, HOH, or MFS.
  • Expands the limits on cash accounting and removal of some of the requirements to track inventory.
  • Allows businesses to fully expense qualified purchases for the 5 years after 2017.

 

VA Jumbo Loans – Check it out Veterans! Free Buyers Guide

January 8th, 2019

 

If you’re ready to start searching for that perfect home to raise your family in, I have mortgage professionals that can get you pre-approved in a matter of minutes.  Then we can be out the door in hot pursuit of your forever home!  Interest Rates are still low and buying a home has never been easier.

I have 19 years experience so you can rely on me to make it a smooth ride to your new home!

Please download your FREE buyers guide to help you get start and then please give me a call!

Buying a home can be confusing

Buying a home can be confusing and having professional help to guide you through the process is valuable.

This free Buyer’s Guide has lots of information about why now is the time to buy, low down payment mortgage options, things that affect your credit score, why pre-approval is important and many other things that every buyer needs to know before they write a contract.

Click the link for yours free, no obligation:

https://betterhomeowners.com/TinaCargill/BuyersGuide

 

Getting your pre-approval before you start shopping for that dream home

November 5th, 2018

Most Realtors prefer that their buyers are Pre-approved or Pre-qualified by a reputably lender before they head to house shop.  One important reason is to see what the buyers actually will be able to afford in order to know up front what dollar amount they will qualify for .

Also when that perfect home is located, the listing agent will most often request to see the Pre-Approval letter in order to make the decision on whether your buyer can afford that particular home.  It’s even more valuable when there is a multiple offer situation (meaning more than one buyer has made an offer on the same home).

If you need some advice on good lenders in our area, please give me a call so I can lead you in the right direction.

And of course I can help you in that special home search!

Please feel free to shop on my web-site for that perfect home.

Happy shopping!

 

 

Moisture and Mold In Your Home?

August 22nd, 2018

 

We may not always want to talk about it, but this is a common problem present in most homes. Believe or not, we probably all have moisture and that can become a real problem.

Moisture is mold’s best friend and it thrives between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit which is why it is commonly found in homes.  Mold spores float in the air and can grow on virtually any substance with moisture including tile, wood, drywall, paper, carpet, and food.

Moisture control and eliminating water problems are key to preventing mold. Common sources of moisture can be roof leaks, indoor plumbing leaks, outdoor drainage problems, damp basements or crawl spaces, steam from bathrooms or kitchen, condensation on cool surfaces, humidifiers, wet clothes drying inside, or improper ventilation of heating and cooking appliances.

  • Control the moisture problem
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces using soap and water or other cleanser; dry completely
  • Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces
  • Discard porous materials with extensive mold growth
  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold
  • Periodically, inspect the area for signs of moisture and new mold growth

The EPA suggests that if the moldy area is less than ten square feet, you can probably handle the cleanup yourself.  If the affected area is larger than that, find a contractor or professional service provider.

Increasing ventilation in a bathroom by running a fan for at least 30 minutes or opening a window can help remove moisture and control mold growth.  After showering, squeegee the walls and doors. Wipe wet areas with dry towels.  Cleaning more frequently will also prevent mold from recurring or keep it to a minimum.

A simple solution to clean most mold is a 1:8 bleach/water mixture.  Since homes have thermostatically controlled temperatures and water is used all day long in the kitchen and bathrooms, the environment is conducive to mold. (I would suggest cracking a window while cleaning with bleach since it’s not safe to breath the fumes).

Safety Tips When Taking a Vacation

July 24th, 2018

It’s that time of year for fun in the sun!

Summertime is such a fun time because of all the outdoor activities.  This is when most families take their long awaited vacation to unwind and relax for a few days.

Before You Leave Town…

 

 

Here’s a few tip to consider before you pack up and head out on your way.  Happy travels!!!

Along with all the planning of what you’re going to do and where you’re going to stay, consider this checklist to make you feel more comfortable while you’re away from home.

  • Ask a trusted friend to pick up your mail, newspaper and keep yard picked up to avoid an appearance of not being at home.
  • Stop your mail (USPS Hold Mail Service) and your newspaper.
  • Don’t post about your trip on Facebook and other social media until you return; some burglars look for this type of announcement to schedule their activities.
  • Do notify police or neighborhood watch – especially if you’re going to be gone for more than just a few days. Let your monitoring service know when you’ll be gone and if someone will be checking on your home for you.
  • Light timers make it look like someone is home. Set multiple timers for various times to better simulate someone at home. There are plug-in modules for lights and appliances that would allow you to control them from your phone while your out of town.
  • Do unplug certain appliances – TV, computers, toaster ovens that use electricity even when they’re off and to protect them from power surges.
  • Don’t hide a key; burglars know exactly where to look for your key and it only takes them a moment to check under the mat, above the door, in the flower pot or in a fake rock.

These easy-to-handle suggestions may protect your belongings while you’re gone while adding a level of serenity to your trip.

Just in case you’re headed to the beach: Check out the Travel Channels Top 10 Best Beaches in America!

https://www.travelchannel.com/interests/beaches/photos/top-10-beaches-in-america

Thinking of buying a second home?

June 15th, 2018

The Tax Difference in Second Homes

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Thinking of buying a vacation property for your family enjoyment?  Here’s some important information!

A principal residence and a second home have some similar benefits, but they have some key tax differences. A principal residence is the primary home where you live and a second home is used mainly for personal enjoyment while limiting possible rental activity to a maximum of 14 days per year.

Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Mortgage Interest Deduction allows a taxpayer to deduct the qualified interest on a principal residence and a second home. The interest is reduced from a maximum of $1,000,000 combined acquisition debt to a maximum of $750,000 combined acquisition debt for both the first and second homes.

Property taxes on first and second homes are deductible but limited to a combined maximum of $10,000 together with other state and local taxes paid.

The gain on a principal residence retained the exclusion of $250,000/$500,000 for single/married taxpayers meeting the requirements. Unchanged by the new tax law, the gains on second homes must be recognized when sold or disposed.

Tax-deferred exchanges are not allowed for property used for personal purposes such as second homes. Gain on second homes owned for more than 12 months is taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rate.

This article is intended for informational purposes. Of course advice from a tax professional for your specific situation should be obtained prior to making a decision that can have tax implications.

When you’re ready to buy that second home, please let me help you with your search!  I have over 18 years of Real Estate experience in the Austin Area.  Keller Williams has the most agents and listings than any other Realty office. My web-site has all the available, up-to-date properties for your viewing.  Have fun checking it out.

Log onto my web-site to start that exciting search:  https://www.tinacargillrealtor.com/

 

Looking For Things To Do in The Spring in Austin?

April 9th, 2018

Spring is my favorite time of year and our climate in Austin is some of the best to head outdoors to enjoy all the mild weather and an abundance of beautiful wildflowers.  Here’s just a few things that might keep you busy while getting some fresh air, beautiful scenery and relaxation. 

  The Bat Boat:

While most people just grab a spot on the bridge, there’s an even better way to watch the bats!

The Bat Boat company has partnered with Capital Cruises to bring you Bat Cruise-days, a party cruise on Town Lake (or Lady Bird Lake as it’s now known). Enjoy great music, food, and cocktails aboard a fabulous boat with air conditioning, bathrooms, and a gorgeous roof deck. The boat will pause near the bridge (and turn the music down) at sunset to watch the bats and tell you a little bit about them!

Check-in will be at the The Hyatt Regency Austin (208 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704) at the poolside bar, beginning at 5:30PM. Guests must check-in with the ATC guide at the Hyatt Regency Austin poolside bar.

Capital Cruises does offer many other fun cruises on Lady Bird Lake.

Please check their web-site for current days and times:  http://www.capitalcruises.com/about/

 

Your Biker Gang:

This company bills itself as one of the funnest things to do in Austin. They help you create your own motorcycle gang, but subs in fat-tired electric minibikes for the motorcycles, which are so much safer.

After a quick tutorial and training on the bikes in a parking lot, you head out on the open road, with blasting classic biker gang tunes from a giant speaker on the guides bike. It’s a little intimidating at first, but once you learn to trust this speedy little machine and lean into your turns (top speed is 20 mph) you become one with the bike and basically feel like you can do anything…like riding in Downtown Austin traffic.

This is an amazing way to see Austin! As you bike over the pedestrian bridge on Lady Bird Lake, through Zilker Park, and along Waller Creek, you will fall in love with this place all over again.

 

The Ladybird Johnson Wild Flower Center:

The Center’s gardens, natural areas and arboretum display more than 800 species of native plants from many of the major ecoregions of Texas. Their gardens represent the most diverse collection of Texas native plants in North America and demonstrate their use in various designs. The gardens include a butterfly garden, a woodland space, water gardens, homeowner design examples an English-style border garden and others. The 16-acre Texas Arboretum places an emphasis on the more than 50 species of oaks found in the state. The Luci and Ian Family Garden was developed as a model of sustainable design and nature play. It provides opportunity for both structured education and informal play and exploration in nature.

The Center’s website provides a full range of information useful to scientists, students, gardeners, native plant enthusiasts, landscape architects and others. It hosts the Native Plant Information Center, the most comprehensive guide to North American native plants in existence, with a free and searchable database of information about more than 9,000 native plants, 43,000 plant images, answers to plant and natural gardening questions and more. Wildflower magazine is a nationally recognized source of native plant information and inspiration for our members.

 

Zilker Park:

The crown jewel of the Austin parks system. A large expanse area of grass crawling with pick-up soccer games, cute dogs, picnics, and people reading books under trees. Zilker also hosts some of Austin’s most famous festivals throughout the year: Austin City Limits, Kite Festival, Trail of Lights, Zilker Relays, and Blues on the Green. This place truly is an outdoor oasis.

 

Barton Springs:

If escaping the heat is your main goal, Barton Springs Pool is the best place to do it. The water is spring-fed and sustains a chilly 68 degrees year-round. Wade in the deep end, take a jump off the diving board, or spend your afternoon people-watching. Bonus: You don’t need to pay an entrance fee to enjoy the best of Barton Springs. The greenbelt is free, and along the hiking path you can find Gus Fruh and Twin Falls—two great places to take a relaxing dip or throw yourself off a rope swing.

 

Lady Bird Lake Trail:

Austin’s beloved (and convenient) Lady Bird Lake Trail is a 10-mile loop with a number of access points. With entry at Downtown, Zilker, and Butler Park, it feels like a natural refuge right in the heart of the city. Dogs, joggers, walkers, and strollers populate this busy route, enjoying skyline views and access to the river. There are also stops along the way to rent paddleboards and kayaks if you’re looking to cool off from the Texas heat.  Truly a must do on your list!

 

For endless things to do right here in Austin, check out:   http://365thingsaustin.com/

 

Tips when shopping for that new home

March 19th, 2018

Are you shopping for a new home?  Ugly paint colors? Treadmill in the kitchen? Creepy family portraits in every room? Don’t let it bug you.

In 15 years of real estate, I can honestly say that I’ve seen it all. Toilet seats up in listing photos, shag carpet covered with dog hair, bedrooms doubling as marijuana growing centers, and avocado green appliances from the ’70s.

Sellers aren’t required to get their homes in best condition before showing them — let alone cleaning their home before listing. But one seller’s laziness can spell a giant upside for the right buyer.

Here are three sights that may be off-putting when you’re shopping for a home, but shouldn’t stop you from considering making an offer— particularly if you love the home, layout or location.

Odd wallpaper and dirty carpet

Today’s buyers generally prefer a home that’s turn-key or move-in ready. They’re too busy with their day-to-day lives to take on a renovation — and this is especially true for the continuously connected, mobile-ready millennial home buyer.

But painting walls and replacing carpets isn’t always time-consuming or expensive, and you can do these projects before moving in.

If a seller won’t replace their shag carpet or paint the interior a neutral color, they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

A fresh coat of paint and finished floors or new carpet won’t break the bank or take more than a week, and the end product will be a like-new home for you to move into.

Rooms being strangely used

It’s not uncommon to see a home’s dining room transformed into a full-fledged office. Some homeowners even have a bedroom doubling as a walk-in closet. I once saw a first-floor bedroom turned into a wine-tasting room.

Just because the homeowner uses these spaces in a way that suits them, doesn’t mean you have to. These rooms might stand out as odd to you, but try to forget that the seller lives there.

Once they’ve moved out, the dining room will be a space that just needs a great light fixture and table. The walk-in closet can be turned back into a bedroom in less than a day.

A too-strong seller presence

It’s difficult for a buyer to imagine themselves in a home if it’s full of the seller’s photos, diplomas and other personal belongings. The best homes for buyers are those that are neutral and lacking any items specific to the owner.

What’s worse is when the seller is present at a showing. It makes everyone uncomfortable. The buyers feel like they need to be on their best behavior and can’t explore the house, dig deep into closets or cabinets, or feel free to talk out loud about what they see.

A home that is too personalized or where the seller is always present can sit on the market and get a bad reputation over time. A smart buyer will use that to their advantage and snag it below the asking price.

Sellers who sabotage their home sale — whether intentionally or not — leave money on the table for the buyer. But typical consumers today have a hard time seeing through a seller’s mess, personalized design style or custom changes.

If you see an home that’s in a great location with a floor plan that’s ideal, go see it. Ignore the things you can change, and think about whether you can make the home your own.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published on July 4, 2016 by Zillow

Cleaver Ways To Encourage Your Children to Recycle

January 22nd, 2018

Teaching your family to be green!

As we all know, recycling is crucial when it comes to caring for our planet — and instilling this responsibility in children when they are young is a surefire way to encourage them to do it for years to come. But how can we do this without it being reduced to an unpleasant “chore”? As a former preschool teacher, I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to get children excited about cleanup is to turn it into a game.

As luck would have it, there are plenty of ways to transform something seemingly mundane like recycling into a fun pastime.

Sort-the-Recycling Game

To get kids started in the world of recycling, you first have to teach them how to sort. Flash cards created a wonderful little game for her son to do just that. With nothing more than cardstock, magazines, berry containers, scissors and double-stick tape, you can create a delightful game that allows your little ones to use their problem-solving skills and develop a love for sorting recyclables at the same time.

Online Sorting Game

It’s no secret that today’s children are incredibly tech savvy. These tiny digital natives have taken to computers and tablets like ducklings to water. If your kids are in the mood for something a little more 21st century than card- stock, consider this fun game from Turtle Diary. Players drag and drop items from a conveyor belt into one of three containers: compost, recycle or trash. I love the addition of compost, as it adds more dimension to the wonderful world of sustainability!

Nature Walk Recycling Game

Nature walks have always been my go-to trick to get kids moving and interacting with their environment. Collecting rocks, doing crayon rubbings of fallen leaves, and catching and releasing insects all work to get children excited about the beauty of our planet. Another thing nature walks are good for is an opportunity to do a little community service and recycling at the same time.

Choose a neighborhood, park or semi-busy street (if they’re not the kind to run into traffic) to explore with your little ones. Take along two bags — one for trash and one for recycling. Have the children keep an eye out for litter. When they find some, allow them to sort it into the proper bag. You can even turn it into a fun bingo game. Take some time to talk about why we shouldn’t litter and how it’s bad for our environment. When the walk is over, dispose of the trash and send the recycling on its way to the plant!

Treasure Hunt

At one point or another, many of us have flirted with the idea of buying a metal detector in the hopes of finding valuable antiques or jewelry. Unfortunately, as most metal detectorists will tell you, you’re far more likely to find old beer cans than anything worthwhile. However, I’ve found that the key is to manage expectations — after all, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

Start by explaining that the goal is to find as many recyclable metal materials as possible. Then, grab a child size metal detector and something to carry your finds in, and let your kids go exploring. Beaches, parks, fields, woodlands and ghost towns are all great places to probe with a metal detector. By turning trash into “treasure,” you’ll get your kids excited about cleaning up their environment — and if you happen to find something of value, that’s just a bonus!

A Few More Tips

Though so much of recycling can be transformed into a game, you’ll still need to explain the importance of recycling to your children. Pop over to your local library and look for children books regarding recycling. Read these books together and talk to your kids about why you recycle, and why you think it is important for every member of the family to do so as well.

Place recycling bins in multiple rooms of the house, and ensure they’re at a level that your children can access. You can even encourage them to create signs for the bins so they feel like they have a little more ownership in the project. The more involved they are, the more fun they have — and the more fun they have, the more likely they are to continue to recycle for the rest of their lives.

Article courtesy of Liz Greene August 15, 2017