Do you know everything you should about home inspections and warranties?

Posted February 13, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: Buying a Home

Tags: , , ,

Home Inspection

If you have spent any time on HGTV or are familiar with Mike Holmes, Canadian’s “Make it Right” guy, you know how important it is to get a home inspection before you sign on the dotted line.

Trying to rush things because you are hopeful things will just work out, or trying to beat out other offers by not having any buyer stipulations just isn’t wise. Moving into a home without a previous inspection can leave you saddled with emergency roof repairs, plumbing issues, hazardous wiring, insulation and asbestos issues, and so much more. Don’t leave it up to chance – invest in a home inspection.

In order to find a home inspector, Dian Hymer, author of “Buying and Selling a Home A Complete Guide,” Chronicle Books, San Francisco; 1994, advises looking for someone with demonstrable qualifications. “Ideally, the general inspector you select should be either an engineer, an architect, or a contractor. When possible, hire an inspector who belongs to one of the home inspection trade organizations.”

So where do home warranties come in? For home ownership, you can expect at minimum 1% of the home’s value each year in maintenance costs. This could come in big chunks like replacing your AC, fixing your roof after a hail storm, or fixing damaged pipes after a freeze. This type of protection simply saves you money in the long run, and could really help you in the event of large home repair expenses.

There are a lot of home warranty plan options out there, so again, due diligence is wise. Sites like can be helpful in determining which plan is right for you.

For more tips on buying or selling your home, visit our Resource Page for Home Buyers


February Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home 10 to-do’s

Posted February 7, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: Uncategorized

February means the thick of snow and cold across most of the country — but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream of spring. Spruce up your home this month by giving your bedroom a feng shui makeover in honor of Valentine’s Day, plus take stock of cleaning supplies, keep road salt out of the house and refresh walls with paint (and maybe some new art, too). These 10 to-dos can help you keep your home in top shape, even if the weather outside is still frightful.

1. Tune up the bedroom with feng shui. With Valentine’s Day this month, it seems like a good time to spruce up the bedroom. If you are in the market for new bedding, consider shades of pink and red to encourage romance. Rotating your mattress regularly will help prevent it from developing hills and valleys, which in feng shui can be seen as separating partners in the bed. While you’re moving mattresses around, have a peek underneath the bed — what’s hiding down there? In feng shui a clean area beneath the bed is best for relationships, so be sure to vacuum up dust bunnies and deal with hidden clutter.

2. Fluff pillows and duvets. Duvets and pillows looking flat? That’s because over time, air is pressed out of them, and the filling (whether down or synthetic) can shift and clump.
Some synthetic-filled pillows and duvets can be machine washed (check the labels for instructions), and even down-filled items can be fluffed up in a dryer on a no-heat setting. Toss a few tennis balls into the dryer with your duvet to help it regain maximum fluffiness.
3. Clean up road salt from entrances. If the winters are chilly where you live, you know how grimy road salt and melted snow can leave your floors, especially in high-traffic areas. After giving these areas a thorough cleaning, stow your supplies nearby so it’s easy to sweep floors regularly.
4. Clean seat cushion covers. Like floors, entryway seat cushions can take a beating at this time of year. Take off removable covers and launder them; spot clean upholstery.
5. Tidy and restock cleaning supplies. Get prepped for spring cleaning by sorting out your cleaning supplies. Toss products you tried that didn’t work and fill in gaps with fresh cleaning supplies and tools. Look over your dish towels, mop heads and microfiber cleaning rags, and replace them as needed.
6. Rotate art and touch up walls. Give your home a winter wake-up call by swapping out a few pieces of artwork, patching dings in the walls and touching up paint.
Make rearranging your collection easier in the future by installing a few narrow shelves around the house, like the one shown here.
7. Recycle e-waste. Old tech devices, CFL bulbs, ink and toner cartridges, and batteries contain dangerous toxins and cannot be tossed in with your other garbage or recycling. Store up your e-waste in one place and take it to a recycling center that accepts these items. Some office supply stores, like Staples, have free e-waste recycling programs — just drop everything off at your local store, and you’re done.
8. Change furnace filters. A clean furnace filter will help your heating system work more efficiently and trap more dust and allergens. Most high-efficiency filters should be changed every three months — but it helps to inspect them every month, just to be sure.
9. Spruce up your favorite reading nook. This is a good time to get cozy with a book. Spruce up your reading corner with a warm throw, a soft rug and a comfy ottoman to put your feet on. And if you find yourself stuck in the house on a snowy afternoon, why not spend it organizing your books?
10. Plan your summer vacation now.




Can your home save you money on your Taxes?

Posted February 6, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: tax issues

Tags: , , , ,

Tax time - your home - deductibles1
It’s tax time, and homes all across the Dallas / Fort Worth area are being overtaken by receipts, spreadsheets, last years tax return, and the furrowed brows of home owners everywhere.

To deduct, or not to deduct, that is the question. For help on these issues, you can educate yourself by visiting the publications page on the IRS website, and looking up these specific forms:

  • 521 “Moving Expenses”
  • 523 “Selling Your Home”
  • 527 “Residential Rental Property”
  • 534 “Depreciation”
  • 541 “Tax Information on Partnerships”
  • 551 “Basis of Assets”
  • 555 “Federal Tax Information on Community Property”
  • 561 “Determining the Value of Donated Property”
  • 590 “Individual Retirement Arrangements”
  • 908 “Bankruptcy and Other Debt Cancellation”
  • 936 “Home Mortgage Interest Deduction”

Something else to consider is a Mortgage Credit Certificate. For rules on how that might apply to you, and tips on how to use your home to save on taxes, visit our Ideal Real Estate Group Resource Page for Home Buyers and take a look at the article Buying Your Home – Tax Considerations

A knowledgeable real estate agent can help first time home buyers recognize the tax benefits of home ownership, and when the best time might be to make that first home purchase. If you have questions or want to explore your options in buying or selling your home, we are here to help. Please contact Sandy Luedke and Ideal Real Estate Group at any time and let us help you find your way home.

Finding a real estate agent, and what they need to know

Posted January 30, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: Buying a Home

Tags: , , , ,

Real Estate Agent InterviewsNo matter what type of business you are in, referrals are what keep the business alive. The same is true for real estate agents. Even with a good referral or two, due diligence needs to be done when looking for the realtor who is right for you.

First, be sure to ask around. Find someone who has actually used a full-time real estate agent in which they had a great experience. There are many people who “know” someone in real estate, but that does not give you an actual reference as to how the person performs.

Also, each agent will have different services they offer as well as different information they may require from you. There is a certain level of developed trust that is needed prior to divulging sensitive information, so it is best to begin looking for your ideal real estate agent as early as possible.

In addition, if you are looking to build a home instead of buying one from an owner, an agent can still be a great benefit to you as you deal with the home-builder’s sales agents.

For more specifics on what to look for when undergoing a search for your real estate agent, click here to visit our resource page titled Buying Your Home – Working With a Real Estate Agent.

If you are looking to build, buy, or sell, and have any questions regarding the process, please contact Ideal Real Estate Group at any time, and let us help you find your way home.

If you liked this article, you may also like:

What do you consider when buying a house?

Whether buying or selling, do you really know what the home is worth?

How do you find the right home?

Should you save and wait to buy your dream home or purchase a starter home now?

Posted January 23, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: Buying a Home

Tags: , , , ,

Save for dream home or purchase starter home now - 1This is one of many questions someone may ask when considering the purchase of a new home.

For tips and advice on how to best answer this question for you and your family, click here to read an article on one of our Ideal Real Estate Group Resource Pages.

Maybe your question isn’t quite so grand and you just want to know whether you should first rent or look into purchasing a home right from the beginning.

On one hand, home ownership offers tax benefits as well as the freedom to make decisions about your home. On the other hand, an advantage of renting is not worrying about maintenance and other financial obligations associated with owning property. Click here to view a few other considerations to make as well when contemplating renting versus purchasing a home.

Acronyms and abbreviations can also be confusing for home buyers when reviewing home advertisements and website listings. There isn’t really a standard everyone is required to adhere to, so you’ll see a lot of variations. Here’s a few abbreviations defined for you:

  • assum. fin. — assumable financing
  • dk — deck
  • gar — garage
  • garden — gard
  • FDR — formal dining room (not the former president)
  • frplc, fplc, FP — fireplace
  • grmet kit — gourmet kitchen
  • HDW, HWF, Hdwd — hardwood floors
  • nr bst schls — near the best schools
  • pvt — private
  • upr — upper floor
  • vw, vu, vws, vus — view(s)

For more abbreviations and tips on buying a home, be sure to visit Ideal Real Estate’s Resource page on these topics by clicking here!

Don’t be dazed and confused about your real estate journey – we are dedicated to making sure this is a great experience for you. We look forward to helping you with all your real estate needs, so give us a call today.

Don’t-Miss Home Tax Breaks

Posted January 18, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

By: Dona DeZube        

Published: January 10, 2013

From the mortgage interest deduction to energy tax credits, here are the tax tips you need to get a jump on your returns.

Mortgage interest deduction Private mortgage insurance deduction Prepaid interest deduction Energy tax credits Vacation or second home tax deductions Home buyer tax credit repayment Property tax deduction

Mortgage interest deduction

One of the neatest deductions itemizing home owners can take advantage of is the mortgage interest deduction, which you claim on Schedule A. To get the mortgage interest deduction, your mortgage must be secured by your home — and your home can even be a house trailer or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.

Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or improve your home.

If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit.

If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan.

PMI and FHA mortgage insurance premiums 

Helpfully, the government extended the mortgage insurance premium deduction through 2013. You can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance as mortgage interest on Schedule A — meaning you must itemize your return. The change only applies to loans taken out in 2007 or later.

What’s PMI? If you have a mortgage but didn’t put down a fairly good-sized down payment (usually 20%), the lender requires the mortgage be insured. The premium on that insurance can be deducted, so long as your income is less than $100,000 (or $50,000 for married filing separately).

If your adjusted gross income is more than $100,000, your deduction is reduced by 10% for each $1,000 ($500 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) that your adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 ($50,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return). So, if you make $110,000 or more, you lose 100% of this deduction (10% x 10 = 100%).

Besides private mortgage insurance, there’s government insurance from FHA, VA, and the Rural Housing Service. Some of those premiums are paid at closing and deducting them is complicated. A tax adviser or tax software program can help you calculate this deduction. Also, the rules vary between the agencies.

Prepaid interest deduction

Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is 100% deductible in the year you paid them along with other mortgage interest.
If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year.
But if you refinance to get a better rate and term or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the term of the loan. Say you refi for a 10-year term and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.
So what happens if you refi again down the road?
Example: Three years after your first refi, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refi. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the term of the loan. 
Home mortgage interest and points are reported on IRS Form 1098. You enter the combined amount on line 10 of Schedule A. If your 1098 form doesn’t indicate the points you paid, you should be able to confirm the amount by consulting your HUD-1 settement sheet. Then you record that amount on line 12 of Schedule A.

 Energy tax credits

The energy tax credit of up to a lifetime $500 had expired in 2011. But the Feds extended it for 2012 and 2013. If you upgraded one of the following systems this year, it’s an opportunity for a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax liability: If you get the $500 credit, you pay $500 less in taxes.

  • Biomass stoves
  • Heating, ventilation, air conditioning
  • Insulation
  • Roofs (metal and asphalt)
  • Water heaters (non-solar)
  • Windows, doors, and skylights
  • Storm windows and doors

Varying maximums

Some of the eligible products and systems are capped even lower than $500. New windows are capped at $200 — and not per window, but overall. Read about the fine print in order to claim your energy tax credit.

  • Determine if the system is eligible. Go to Energy Star’s website for detailed descriptions of what’s covered. And talk to your vendor.
  • The product or system must have been installed, not just contracted for, in the tax year you’ll be claiming it.
  • Save system receipts and manufacturer certifications. You’ll need them if the IRS asks for proof.
  • File IRS Form 5695 with the rest of your tax forms.

Vacation home tax deductions

The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes are complicated. Do yourself a favor and keep good records about how and when you use your vacation home.

  • If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you can deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A.
  • Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Those expenses get deducted using Schedule E.
  • Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than 14 days and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and divide them proportionate to how often you used and how often you rented the house.

Home buyer tax credit

There were federal first-time home buyer tax credits in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

  • If you claimed the home buyer tax credit for a purchase made after April 8, 2008, and before Jan. 1, 2009, you must  repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years, with no interest.
  • If you used the tax credit in  2009 or 2010 and then sold your house or stopped using it as your  primary residence, within 36 months of the purchase date, you also have  to pay back the credit. Example: If you bought a home in 2010 and sold in 2012, you pay it back with your 2012 taxes.
  • That repayment rules are less rigorous for uniformed service members, Foreign Service workers, and intelligence community workers who get sent on extended duty at least 50 miles from their principal residence.

Members of the armed forces who served overseas got an extra year to use the first-time home buyer tax credit.  If you were abroad for at least 90 days between Jan. 1, 2009, and April  30, 2010, and you bought your home by April 30, 2011, and closed the  deal by June 30, 2011, you can claim your first-time home buyer tax credit.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe.

Property tax deduction

You can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.

If you bought a house this year, check your HUD-1 Settlement statement to see if you paid any property taxes when you closed the purchase of your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.

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

Buying a home – pricing, negotiations, and disclosures

Posted January 16, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: Buying a Home

Tags: , , , , , ,

Finding a bargain homeIf you are in the market for purchasing a home, do you know the difference between the home’s list price, sales price and appraised value?

If not, click here to check out this resource page for home buyers on our Ideal Real Estate Group website.

Another area home buyers wonder about is how to find bargain homes, how to be successful at purchasing a home below market value, and whether or not to put in a low-ball offer. Click here (the same page is linked above) to learn about five ways you can find and buy a bargain property, and find advice on submitting a low-ball offer.

Also found on the page linked above is another hot-topic you need to know about when purchasing a new home – contingencies. Make sure you are familiar with various contingencies that can be put in an offer to purchase a home.

Along the same topic, be sure you know what the seller’s responsibilities are on disclosures. Laws vary state to state, so it is always good to know your rights. Sellers should disclose everything that affects the life and budget of the new homeowner, which might include:

  • homeowners association dues
  • whether or not work done on the house meets local building codes and permits requirements
  • the presence of any neighborhood nuisances or noises which a prospective buyer might not notice, such as a dog that barks every night or poor TV reception
  • any death within three years on the property
  • any restrictions on the use of the property, such as zoning ordinances or association rules

To learn more, including more on negotiations tips, click here and visit Ideal Real Estate Group’s resource page to be informed and prepared for the road ahead as you consider purchasing a new home. We’re here to help you every step of the way!

Defining closing costs and the role of a title company for home buyers

Posted January 9, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: Buying a Home

Tags: , , , ,

What are closing costs and why do I need a title companyWhy are there additional closing costs when purchasing a home? Closing costs are the fees for services, taxes or special interest charges that surround the purchase of a home. They are a part of every home buying transaction and include upfront loan points, title insurance, escrow or closing day charges, document fees, prepaid interest and property taxes. Unless, these charges are rolled into the loan, they must be paid when the home is closed.

If closing costs are not rolled into the home loan, which typically isn’t done unless there is some kind of special provision allowing you to finance 100% of your home purchase (like the veteran’s home loan benefit), you still have options for lowering your up-front fees (like closing costs) of purchasing a home.

For instance, did you know you can negotiate your closing costs, or ask the seller to pay for your closing costs? (5 more tips on reducing your closing costs can be found by clicking here.)

Another consideration that is highly encouraged, and sometimes required, is that you include the cost of a title report in your closing costs. Why is this important? A clear title report ensures there are no liens placed against the prior owners or any documents that will restrict your use of the property.

The last thing you want after going through a new home purchase, is a contractor coming up to your door saying he has a lien on the property because of past-due renovation bills by the previous owner. This scenario is actually more common than you think, and a title report can help ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

These are just a few tips you will find on the Ideal Real Estate Group’s website, and you can click here to read more!

Buying Your Home – Finding the Right Home

Posted January 4, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: Buying a Home

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Buying your homeWhat are the pros and cons of adding on or buying new? Before  making a choice between adding on to an existing home or buying a larger one,  consider these questions:

  • How much money is available, either from cash  reserves or through a home improvement loan, to remodel your current house?
  • How much additional space is required? Would the foundation support a  second floor or does the lot have room to expand on the ground level?
  • What  do local zoning and building ordinances permit?
  • How much equity already exists in the property?
  • Are there affordable properties for sale that  would satisfy your changing housing needs?

Do we dig deep and buy a dream home or settle for a starter  home? Choosing between a smaller house in an affluent neighborhood, an  older, bigger house in a more working-class community or a brand-new home is not  easy. If you’re in this situation, start by examining your priorities and asking  the following questions:

  • Is the surrounding neighborhood or the home itself  the most important consideration?
  • Is each of the neighborhoods safe?
  • Is quality of the schools an issue?
  • Do any of the areas seem to attract  more families with children or adult residents? And where do you fit in?

As for the return on your investment, home-price appreciation is hard to  predict. In the late 1980s, and again 10 years later, the more expensive move-up  housing appreciated wildly. But during the recession that followed, smaller  homes tended to hold their value better than more expensive ones.

How  do you choose between buying and renting? Home ownership offers tax  benefits as well as the freedom to make decisions about your home. An advantage  of renting is not worrying about maintenance and other financial obligations  associated with owning property. There also are a number of economic  considerations. Unlike renters, home owners who secure a fixed-rate loan can  lock in their monthly housing costs and make prudent investment plans knowing  these expenses will not increase substantially. Home ownership is a highly  leveraged investment that can yield substantial profit on a nominal front-end  investment. However, such returns depend on home-price appreciation.

What do you consider when buying a house?

Posted January 2, 2014 by sandyluedke
Categories: Buying a Home

Tags: , , ,

Buying a new home, what can I affordIn starting out the new year, many people talk about adding the purchase of a new home to their list of resolutions. However, many don’t pursue it due to some common fears. One of the biggest fears for home buyers, especially for first-timers, is that they end up buying a home more expensive than they can actually afford. We’ve all heard the stories of people losing their homes. What is sometimes comes down to, aside from the economy and other factors outside of people’s control (like losing a job), is that even though a house payment may fall within a budget, many people fail to consider everything else that comes with home ownership, like yearly home-maintenance costs, homeowners insurance, HOA fees (if applicable), and renovation costs if purchasing an older home.

So how do you know what you can afford? When considering the budget for a new home, there are six factors to consider:

  1. Gross income
  2. The amount of cash you have available for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender
  3. Your outstanding debts
  4. Your credit history
  5. The type of mortgage you select
  6. Current interest rates

Another very important fact to consider is just because a mortgage company may approve you for a certain loan amount, you still have to be prudent and consider what it is you can actually afford. Remember that the family still has to eat.

For more tips on what to consider when buying a home, click here to visit a page on Ideal Real Estate Group’s website for more answers to questions like:

  • How much does my real estate agent need to know?
  • When is the best time to buy?
  • What if I have a bankruptcy or foreclosure on my credit?
  • What is the standard debt-to-income ratio mortgage companies are looking for?

Sandy Luedke and Ideal Real Estate Group is here to help you find a home you can live with for a long time, that perfectly complements you, your family, and your lifestyle. Sandy will also make sure you are in-the-know on everything you need to consider when purchasing or selling a home. Call today and don’t wait another year before making your home-buying dreams come true!

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