Entries in Homes (45)

Wednesday
Dec302015

Tax and Home Records Checklist: What to Keep and For How Long?

Want to rest assured you have all the documents you need when you need them, but not be awash in paper? Read on.

Unless you’re living in the 123-room Spelling Manor, you probably don’t have space to store massive amounts of tax and insurance paperwork, warranties, and repair receipts related to your home. But you’ll definitely want your paperwork at hand if you have to prove you deserved a tax deduction, file an insurance claim, or figure out if your busted oven is still under warranty.

Except for tax paperwork, there’s no official guideline governing exactly how long you have to keep most home-related documents. Lucky for you, we considered the situations in which you might need documents and came up with a handy “How Long to Keep It” home records checklist.

First, a little background on IRS rules, which informed some of our charts:

  • The IRS says you should keep tax returns and the paperwork supporting them for at least three years after you file the return — the amount of time the IRS has to audit you. So that’s how long we advise in our charts.
  • Check with your state about state income tax, though. Some make you keep tax records a really long time: In Ohio, it’s 10 years.
  • The IRS can also ask for records up to six years after a filing if they suspect someone failed to report 25% or more of his gross income. And the agency never closes the door on an audit if it suspects fraud. Just sayin’.
HOME SALE RECORDS
Document How Long to Keep It
Home sale closing documents, including HUD-1 settlement sheet As long as you own the property + 3 years                         
Deed to the house As long as you own the property
Builder’s warranty or service contract for new home Until the warranty period ends
Community/condo association covenants, codes, restrictions (CC&Rs) As long as you own the property
Receipts for capital improvements As long as you own the property + 3 years
Section 1031 (like-kind exchange) sale records for both your old and new properties, including HUD-1 settlement sheet As long as you own the property + 3 years
Mortgage payoff statements (certificate of satisfaction or lien release) Forever, just in case a lender says, “Hey, you still owe money.”

Why you need these docs: You use home sale closing documents, receipts for capital improvements, and like-kind exchange records to calculate and document your profit (gain) when you sell your home. Your deed and mortgage payoff statements prove you own your home and have paid off your mortgage, respectively. Your builder’s warranty or contract is important if you file a claim. And sooner or later you’ll need to check the CC&R rules in your condo or community association.

ANNUAL TAX DEDUCTIONS
Document How Long to Keep It
Property tax payment (tax bill + canceled check or bank statement showing check was cashed) 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
Year-end mortgage statements 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
PMI payment (monthly bills + canceled check or bank statements showing check was cashed) 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
Residential energy tax credit* receipts 3 years after the due date of the return on which the credit is claimed (including carryforwards**)

Why you need these docs: To document you’re eligible for a deduction or tax credit.

*Energy tax credits for alternative energy sources; credit expires at the end of 2016.

**Tax credits that you carry forward from one year to a future year, such as when you don’t have enough tax liability to offset the entire amount of the credit. (You can’t deduct more than you earn.) Only certain tax credits can be carried forward. Check with your tax pro about your particular circumstances.

INSURANCE AND WARRANTIES
Document How Long to Keep It
Home repair receipts Until warranty expires
Inventory of household possessions Forever (Remember to make updates.)
Homeowners insurance policies Until you receive the next year’s policy
Service contracts and warranties As long as you have the item being warrantied

Why you need these docs: To file a claim or see what your policy or warranty covers.

INVESTMENT (LANDLORD) REAL ESTATE DEDUCTIONS
Document How Long to Keep It
Appraisal or valuation used to calculate depreciation As long as you own the property + 3 years
Receipts for capital expenses, such as an addition or improvements As long as you own the property + 3 years
Receipts for repairs and other expenses 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
Landlord’s insurance payment receipt (canceled check or bank statement showing check was cashed) 3 years after the due date showing the deduction
Landlord’s insurance policy Until you receive the next year’s policy
Partnership or LLC agreements for real estate investments As long as the partnership or LLC exists + 7 years
Landlord insurance receipts (canceled check or bank statement showing check was cashed) 3 years after you deduct the expense

Why you need these docs: For the most part, to prove your eligibility to deduct the expense. You’ll also need receipts for capital expenditures to calculate your gain or loss when you sell the property. Landlord’s insurance and partnership agreements are important references.

MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS
Document How Long to Keep It
Wills and property trusts Until updated
Date-of-death home value record for inherited home, and any rules for heirs’ use of home As long as you own the home + 3 years
Original owners’ purchase documents (sales contract, deed) for home given to you as a gift As long as you own the home + 3 year
Divorce decree with home sale clause As long as you or spouse owns the home + 3 years
Employment records for live-in help (W-2s, W-4s, pay and benefits statements) 4 years after you make (or owe) payroll tax payments

Why you need these docs: Most are needed to calculate capital gains when you sell. Employment records help prove deductions. 

Organizing Your Home Records

Because paper, such as receipts, fades with time and takes up space, consider scanning and storing your documents on a flash drive, an external hard drive, or a cloud-based remote server. Even better, save your documents to at least two of these places.  

Digital copies are OK with the IRS as long as they’re identical to the originals and contain all the accurate information that was in the original receipts. You must be able to produce a hard copy if the IRS asks for one.

Tip: Tax season and year’s end are good times to purge files and toss what you no longer need; that’s often when the spirit of organization moves us.    

When you do finally toss out your home-related paperwork, use a shredder. Throwing away intact documents with personal financial information puts you at risk for identity theft.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but isn’t intended to be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

 

Tuesday
Dec222015

16 Fabulous Outdoor Christmas Decorations

16 Fabulous Outdoor Christmas Decorations

Saturday
Dec192015

How to do more with less during a redesign

Less is sometimes more...3 Tips for designing a small space.

 


Small rooms can present a real challenge for any would-be interior designer, whether it's a studio apartment or a tiny attic bedroom. Here are a few tricks of the trade for creating the feeling of space - without adding square footage.

Try a fresh coat of paint

One of the simplest yet most effective measures one can take is changing up the color scheme. When choosing a new hue for the walls and/or floor, opt for a lighter shade. Light colors (especially white) create a sense of airiness that contrasts sharply with the cozier feel of darkly-colored rooms, which have a tendency to absorb light.

Giving a ceiling a new coat of paint can be helpful, too. Anything that draws the eye upwards will make a room seem bigger. Wallpaper or a painted design on the ceiling will accomplish that task.

Change up the furniture

 

Although it may seem counterintuitive, decorators actually should not push furniture up against the walls to maximize space. Pulling furniture a little bit away from the walls will make the room appear larger and more open. Similarly, it is a good idea to choose chairs and couches with exposed legs, which also lend the area a sense of openness. The same goes for ottomans, cabinets, dressers and end tables—the leggier the better.

If a standing bookshelf is taking up too much room, ditch it and instead hang shelves near the ceiling, which will both free up space and draw the eye upwards. If the room has hardwood floors, a rug with vertical stripes can elongate the space, in the same way that striped clothing can have a slimming effect on the body. Alternately, using several small rugs to divide the room into sections can also make the space appear larger.

Expansion through decoration

 

Finally, there are many little (or sometimes big) decorations that can be added to a small room to really help to transform it. For example, using an oversized mirror to make a room feel larger is a well-known trick, but sometimes a large piece of wall art can manage the same feat. Using one large, attention-grabbing art piece is preferable to cluttering up a wall with lots of different pieces.

As for other decorations, they should be well-proportioned and used sparingly. In a small room, anything larger than a bread box is likely to stand out, so smaller plants and knickknacks are preferred—unless there is one big “statement piece” to tie the room together. In general, though, clutter is the enemy of spaciousness, and one should exercise appropriate restraint when picking out decorations for a small room.

Just because you have a small room does not mean anyone else has to know. Follow these tips and tricks for making a tiny space feel bigger, and you can effectively hide a cramped room in plain sight.

Article from Edgewood Properties.

 

Saturday
Dec052015

3 Brilliant Hacks to Make Snow Shoveling Less Miserable

Don’t break your back shoveling snow. Try these tips to make winter less of a burden.

Person shoveling snow in a yard

Winterize your home nav bar

If you’re a homeowner in a snowy climate, chances are good you rue the winter: All that snow has to go somewhere, and it’s not getting there itself. 

Cue the snow shovel.

Barring a move to a snow-free state or barricading your family inside all winter, there’s no way to avoid the endless task of shoveling snow. There are, however, ways to make the process much easier. Here are three simple hacks to make the morning after a snowfall much less stressful.

1.  Spray Your Shovel with Cooking Oil

Snow sticking to your shovel makes an already arduous task even more obnoxious. Avoid it with this hack: Lightly coat your shovel with non-stick cooking oil to make snow slide right off. No more time wasted removing snow from your snow remover. (You can substitute a spray lubricant like WD-40, but the downside is it’s toxic.)

2.  Lay Out a Tarp Before the Snow

If you like short cuts, this technique, billed as “the laziest way imaginable” to clear snow, according to a tutorial from “Instructables,” has got your name on it. The day before an expected snowfall, lay a tarp on your walkway. When the snow finishes falling, just pull out the tarp, and voilà: an instantly cleared walkway. (Word to the wise: Make sure pedestrians won’t trip on your tarp; include a sign or use this technique in your backyard walkway if you’re concerned.)

The technique requires a tarp, firewood, and twine as well as some prep work. Pre-storm, use firewood to weigh down your tarp — you don’t want it flying away in the wind! — and tie the twine to both the tarp and to a shovel standing upright in your yard. You’ll use the shovel to pull out the snow-laden tarp. 

Although this method might be faster than shoveling, it does require manpower. After all, a cubic foot of snow can weigh between 7 and 20 pounds. So don’t get too ambitious with the size of your tarp or you might not be able to pull it once it’s full of snow. 

3.  Make a Homemade De-icing Cocktail

De-icers make snow removal easier by cutting through the tough, icy layers that are a pain to remove with a shovel. But an easy solution should be easy on your property as well. Many commercial de-icers are pretty harsh.

Commercial ice-melting substances — magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride (salt) — all cause damage to the environment, according to the University of Maryland’s Home and Garden Information Center. They can also damage concrete sidewalks and driveways, which mean hefty repair costs later. 

A better solution: Make your own de-icer using rubbing alcohol or vinegar. You’ll save money, too. Commercial melters typically cost $8 or more. Plus, you’ll avoid the hassle of trekking to the hardware store to stock up.

Use vinegar before a storm to make ice and snow removal easier:

  • Combine 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water.
  • Spray or pour gently (you still want to avoid runoff into your landscape) before a storm.

To keep the sidewalks and steps from icing after a storm:

  • Combine 2 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part water.
  • Apply to minimize runoff.

Read more:  http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/seasonal-maintenance/3-hacks-make-shoveling-snow-snap/#ixzz3tSoG8p00 
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Sunday
Nov222015

Bringing the Garden Indoors

Indoor Gardens with 
Low-Maintenance Greenery  

 


As the colder months arrive and outdoor foliage goes into hibernation, many begin to crave the natural energy of greenery. Although maintaining house plants may sound like a chore, there are several house plants that require little effort or attention to grow. 

If you would like to start an indoor garden but prefer plants that require low maintenance and don’t cause a mess, consider starting with these five plants suggested by Midwest Living and The Huffington Post. 

Aloe vera 
This spiny green succulent does not need much water to thrive. As long as it does not sit in standing water and receives small amounts of water every week, it should remain healthy. If you want your aloe vera to thrive, keep it on a sunny windowsill in the kitchen so it can clean the air of formaldehyde and other chemicals. 

Aloe vera’s long, stalk-like leaves are filled with a gelatinous fluid that has anti-inflammatory and healing characteristics. Thus, having aloe vera on hand is beneficial for treating sunburns, scrapes and other wounds on the skin. 

Peace lily 
The white, spoon-shaped blooms of the peace lily have a unique appearance that stays hearty throughout the summer, and they do not need much attention to flourish. As long as the plant remains at a consistent, cool temperature with low humidity—easily achievable indoors—and receives occasional watering, it will remain healthy. 

The peace lily does not need constant, direct sunlight either; shaded areas of your home are suitable. Although it does produce pollen, it cleanses the air of toxins such as ammonia, benzene and formaldehyde. 

Spider plant 
The easiest houseplant to care for is the spider plant, which is recognizable for its long, thin leaves with a white stripe down the center. 

The spider plant’s leaves can communicate with inexperienced plant caretakers, as they will turn brown if they are receiving too much water, too little water or contaminated tap water. Weekly doses of rainwater work best for these plants. The spider plant thrives in indirect sunlight and is one of the best air-purifying plants, according to NASA. Benzene, carbon monoxide and xylene can all be purged from the air by a spider plant. 

Mother-in-law's tongue 
Many names exist for this type of sansevieria, including the snake plant, but mother-in-law’s tongue remains most popular because the plant can regularly be ignored, much like the words of its namesake. It prefers drier conditions and moderate sun exposure, only needing occasional watering and dusting. 

Unlike most plants, this resilient succulent releases oxygen throughout the night, keeping the air fresh and free of toxins. 

Philodendron 
The climbing vines of the philodendron will spread their heart-shaped leaves across shelves, sills and tables. This durable and long-lasting plant can thrive indoors for years, growing as long as eight feet when untrimmed. Its preference for dry soil and low light makes it a staple of indoor gardening. Just keep your pets away from it, as it can cause severe irritation when ingested. 

Bring green into your house all year long by filling your home with these easy-to-maintain houseplants. They work hard to purify the air and require only basic attention—something any housekeeper could provide.