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5 Things Homeowners Should Know About Tax Season

If we asked you about your least favorite times of the year, tax season might rank pretty high on the list. Doing your taxes can be incredibly confusing and stressful. Those who own a home might find it even harder to know exactly what’s what when it comes to homeowner tax deductions. In a lot of cases, it’s smart to leave it to a professional. On the other hand, if your tax information is pretty straightforward, most homeowners find themselves comfortable with e-filing. But whether you do your own taxes or take them down to your local preparer, it’s important to be armed with the right information. With that in mind, here are a few things we think all homeowners should know this tax season.

1. You can only deduct the actual amount of property taxes paid, not the total amount you’ve paid your lender. Some homeowners pay their tax bills all at once on their own, but others pay a monthly amount to escrow for property taxes. Sometimes, the amount you’ve paid the lender is more or less than the actual tax bill. Here’s a quick example:

Say your property tax bill is $3,400, but your lender has collected $3,600 from you this year. You may only deduct the amount paid toward the bill by your lender, which is $3,400. That extra $200 you paid your lender will either be applied toward next year’s taxes or sent you a refund.

2. You may deduct points paid to refinance your mortgage… BUT you must spread the deduction out over the life of your loan. Though you may deduct the total points paid to secure your mortgage in the year you bought your home, the same is not true for a refinance. For example, if you paid $3,000 to refinance a 15-year mortgage, you must spread that out over the 15 years. So your yearly deduction would be $200.

3. There is an easier option for home office deduction. Good news for those who claim deductions for home office space! In the past, the guidelines for this type of deduction were somewhat involved. For the 2013 tax year, there is a new option that makes home office deduction much simpler. Instead of having to figure the actual expense of operating a home office, you can now claim $5 per square foot of office space for up to 300 square feet. What has not changed is the definition of a home office. The room or area still must be used exclusively for business purposes on a regular basis.

4. You can receive a tax credit for having an energy-efficient home. If you have made upgrades to make your house more energy-efficient, you may be eligible for a tax credit of up to 10% of the amount you spent to upgrade. The cap for this credit is $500, but the added benefit is the amount you’ll be saving on energy bills!

5. Not every home repair counts as a tax deduction. Of course it’s always best to check with a tax professional on this one, but there are typically only two ways you can claim repairs. The first is if your home is used for a business. If repairs were done to your home office, you may deduct those. If a repair was done to the entire house (such as painting or adding a new roof), then you may deduct a percentage. So if your office takes up 10% of your house, you can deduct 10% of the repair. The second reason to claim repairs is when they are made due to casualty losses. That includes losses retained after federally declared disasters and other major damage. This is a complex process, however, and our advice is to consult a professional.

Above all, it is extremely important that you keep your records organized and accessible! Having everything organized and in one place will make tax season much more bearable. We hope you’ve learned something new from our tax season tips. If you think we’ve left out an important tip, feel free to add it in the comments section below. 

How-To Tuesday: Open Up a Dark, Drab Kitchen

 Image: HGTV.com

The kitchen. It’s where your family makes dinners and bakes goodies together. It’s where your friends gather for coffee and dinner parties. Whether you’re entertaining, relaxing with a cup of tea, helping the kids with homework, or doing a craft project, it’s likely that a good amount of your home life is spent in the kitchen. In fact, the kitchen is one of the first rooms buyers look at when shopping for a new home. If this room is a turnoff, it can distract from the other great qualities your home features. For this week’s how-to, let’s take a look at a few ideas for brightening a dark kitchen.

 

1. If space is an issue, sometimes all you need is to open things up. Removing cabinet doors can do a lot to open up a small kitchen. As a bonus, you can use this opportunity to display particularly colorful dishes or other collections. If keeping things clean and organized is not your forté, however, this might not be the best idea for you. Instead of getting rid of the doors completely, replacing the wood with glass can also create the illusion of space.

 

2. Does your kitchen lack light? The culprit could very well be the color of your walls and fixtures. While dark, designer colors can be stunning in the right room, they can also bring a poorly lit one down. If your kitchen is on the dark side of the house or doesn’t have enough windows, brighten things up with a lighter paint color. If you’re brave enough, go with an all-white color scheme. Not only is bright white a design “do” right now, but it also allows you to go crazy with fun decorating accents.

 

3. Get rid of clutter! This is important for any room in the house, but it’s especially true for the kitchen. Start by removing everything from the counter tops. Put it all on the floor for a little perspective. As you pick each item up, really think about whether it actually belongs on the counter. If it’s not something that’s used often, it should probably be stowed away in a cabinet or pantry until it’s needed.

 

4. If your kitchen is truly tiny and you have the time and resources, think about knocking out a wall or two. Opening your kitchen up to the rest of the house allows for better flow, more space, and affords you the opportunity to converse with friends or family in the living room while you take care of kitchen duties.

 

5. When all else fails, turn to the obvious—lighting!  Natural light is always best, but it might not be possible to open up your kitchen to the outside. Sometimes you have to resort to the next best thing. Buy some beautiful pendant lights. Install under-cabinet lighting. Do whatever you can to shed some light on the situation.


If you’re thinking of selling your home, the kitchen is one of the first rooms that should be spruced up and updated. Opening up your dark, drab kitchen will certainly help possible homebuyers see your home’s potential. As a bonus, it might just inspire you to enjoy more time there with a few new recipes. Has your kitchen undergone a renovation or update lately? Share some of your own tips and tricks in the comments section below!

 

CTAR Releases 2013 Annual Report on the Charleston Area Housing Market

 

The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors® recently released its annual report on the Charleston area housing market. This report contains a plethora of information about the local real estate market.

“It was a banner year for residential real estate across America,” states CTAR. “Nearly every metropolitan housing market embarked upon or continued along the road to recovery. Local and regional markets once burdened by excessive supply levels and heavy foreclosure loads have given way to multiple-offer situations, homes selling in record-low market times, and prices rallying to multi-year highs.”

The numbers don’t lie. Charleston real estate has made a great recovery over the past two years. Closed sales were up 21.1% in 2013 from 2012, and pending sales were up 21.5%. There was a 13.9% rise in new listings, and at the end of the year, inventory of homes for sale was down 12.3%. In addition, sales prices were up and average number of days on the market were down. These are all definite signs of a recovering market.

For more information on CTAR’s 2013 report, check out our infographic below.

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Hidden Gem : A Completely Remodeled Home in North Charleston

Just Listed!

7012 Terrace Drive Better Exterior

 

$110,000

Prepare to be impressed! This little jewel, just listed in North Charleston, has been totally remodeled. New architect roof put on in 2010. New vinyl tilt-out windows and new heat/air unit. Kitchen boasts new oak cabinets, counter tops, and a new dishwasher. Range and refrigerator (which conveys) are newer as well. The entire home (except kitchen and bath) have the original wood floors which have been beautifully refinished. The bathroom has been refinished, including a new tub/shower combo, new vanity, and new ceramic tile. There are three good-sized bedrooms, each with a ceiling fan. Outside is a carport and storage space which houses the washer and dryer, which also convey in as-is condition. This house sits on a large, wooded corner lot with lots of room for kids to play or even a garden. Don't miss this rare opportunity for an all-brick home in this condition.

Location, Home Prices, and Family Friendliness Attract Buyers to Goose Creek

 As a central region in the tri-county area, Goose Creek is attracting more buyers and "making a comeback" according to local Realtors. According to the Post and Courier the city’s current population of 36,000 continues to expand. Why is the area seeing such a resurgence? There are many reasons causing the area to entice homebuyers, but there are three leading features that have begun to make Goose Creek more alluring all around: its central location and proximity to popular employers, family-friendly neighborhoods, and affordable housing.

 

Located at the convergence of several major roads, Goose Creek is convenient to its surrounding areas, sitting five to twenty minutes from most destinations in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties. Residents find it easy to hop onto Highways 52, 78, and 17A and Interstates 26 and 526, making it close to work, shopping, restaurants, parks, and other recreation areas. Employees of Boeing, Alcoa, and the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command appreciate a short commute to and from home.

 

Goose Creek residents also enjoy modestly priced homes in peaceful, family-friendly neighborhoods. In fact, Bloomberg Businessweek named Goose Creek the best place to raise kids in South Carolina in both 2010 and 2011. “This quiet, pretty suburb of Charleston has much to offer, from great parks to solid schools, to rolling bike trails,” the magazine stated. Several new-construction neighborhoods have seen great success over the last few years, adding to the allure for families. The newest development at Carnes Crossroads is expected to attract thousands of new residents.

 

Currently, there are 208 homes for sale in all of Goose Creek, with an average listing price of $163,266 and an average of 132 days on the market. 361 homes have sold in Goose Creek since July 2013 at an average price of $145,369 and 59 days on the market.

 

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