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Fairfield County Real Estate Blog

Bunny Mostad and Deb Alderson

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Spring Maintenance Tips

by Bunny Mostad and Deb Alderson

Furnace air filters should be cleaned or replaced each month during the heating system; ventilation system filters every two months.

Turn OFF gas furnace and fireplace pilot lights where possible.

Shut down furnace humidifier - thoroughly clean it and close the furnace humidifier damper on units with central air conditioning.

Drain the hot water heater to flush out any sediment.

Check air conditioning system and have serviced every two or three years.  Check condensate drain and or pump.

Clean or replace air conditioning filter (if applicable).

Check dehumidifier and clean if necessary.

Have well water tested for quality.  The Connecticut Department of Health recommends that you test for bacteria every six months.

Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace batteries.

Once winter is finally over, open valves to outside hose connections.

Examine the foundation walls for cracks, leaks or signs of moisture, and patch or repair as required.

Ensure sump pump is operating properly before the spring thaw.  Make sure discharge pipe is properly connected and that it routes water away from the structure.  Sump pit should have a rigid cover secured over it.

Check gutters and downspouts for proper pitch, misalignment, or loose joints.  Clear any obstructions and ensure that downspouts are directed away from foundation.

Prune trees and shrubs that overhang the roof, or encroach on the structure or utility cables.

Check soil pitch around foundation - settling may have occurred.  There should be about 1 inch of drop for every horizontal foot from the structure to a distance of about 10 feet away.  Clear all drainage ditches and culverts of debris.

Check exterior hard-scape such as sidewalks, driveways, etc.  Re-level any exterior steps or decks that moved due to frost heaving or settling.  Seal coat asphalt driveways about every three years.

Check window operation and glazing around windowpanes.  Check window and door screens; patch or replace as needed.

Operate seldom-used plumbing fixtures and vary the temperature adjustments to keep the pressure balancing spools from seizing.  Also, run water into seldom-used drains to keep their traps full of water.

Visually inspect the water supply hoses for the clothes washer.

Check the siding, trim, deck, and other wooden components.  Re-secure any loose pieces.  Paint, stain or seal as needed.

 

 

 

Information courtesy of:

Bob Camarda 

Conerstone Home Inspection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REALTORS SUPPORTING HOME OWNERS

by Bunny Mostad and Deb Alderson

The timing of yesterday's WSJ article was appropriate since I was in the process of writing an article to encourage homeowners to join Connecticut Realtors at their May 9 Rally at Bushnell Park, Hartford.  The purpose of the rally is to make a statement to our lawmakers and to encourage them to "Give Us a Connecticut to Sell.  Connecticut is currently ranked 50th in economic growth (Dept. of Commerce).  300,000 residents have left in the past 20 years.  50% of our graduates are leaving the State.

Here's the article:

What’s the Matter with Connecticut?

Wall Street Journal

April 7, 2017

Connecticut’s progressive tax experiment has hit a wall. Tens of thousands of residents are fleeing for lower tax climes, which has prompted Democrats to propose—get this—paying new college grads a thousand bucks to stick around. Maybe they’re afraid an exodus of young people will turn the state Republican.

Hard to believe, but a mere 25 years ago—a lifetime for millennials—Connecticut was a low-tax haven for Northeasterners. The state enacted an income tax in 1991 that was initially a flat 4.5% but was later made steeply progressive. In 2009 former Republican Governor Jodi Rell raised the top rate on individuals earning $500,000 or more to 6.5%, which Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy has lifted to 6.99% (as if paying 0.01% less than 7% is a government discount).

Connecticut’s top tax rate is now higher than the 5.1% flat rate in the state formerly known as Taxachusetts. In 2012 the Tax Foundation ranked Connecticut’s state and local tax burden second highest in the country behind New York. Due to recent property and income tax hikes, the Nutmeg State may now be in the lead.

You don’t need a Yale degree to figure out the tax hikes have been a disaster. A net 30,000 residents moved to other states last year. Since 2010 seven of Connecticut’s eight counties have lost population, and the hedge-fund haven of Fairfield County shrank for the first time last year. In the last five years, 27,400 Connecticut residents have moved to Florida. Florida Governor Rick Scott should pay Mr. Malloy a broker’s fee.

More than 3,000 Connecticut residents have moved to zero income-tax New Hampshire in the last two years. While liberals wax apocalyptic about Kansas’s tax cuts, the Prairie State has welcomed 1,430 Connecticut refugees since 2011 and reversed the outflow between 2005 and 2009. Yet liberals deny that tax policies influence personal or business decisions.

After losing General Electric to Boston last year, Mr. Malloy bribed the hedge funds Bridgewater and AQR Capital with $57 million in taxpayer subsidies not to leave the state. Other beneficiaries of the Governor’s corporate welfare include Cigna , NBC Sports, ESPN and Charter Communications .

Democratic legislators have now taken the subsidy idea one step further by proposing a tax credit averaging $1,200 for grads of Connecticut colleges who live in the state as well as those of out-of-state schools who move to the state within two years of earning their degree. Democrats say the tax credit would cost the state $6 million each year assuming only 10% of eligible college grads sign on.

Yet the main reason young people are escaping is the lack of job opportunities. Since 2010 employment in Connecticut has grown at half the rate of Massachusetts and more slowly than in Rhode Island, New Jersey or Kansas. If the kids reject the tax-credit deal, maybe Gov. Malloy will start negotiating the terms and conditions for staying with each graduate. Or perhaps Democrats could seek President Trump’s help to build a wall around the state.

Meanwhile, Democrats are wrangling with a projected $1.7 billion budget deficit next year because tax revenues keep trailing projections. The state’s teacher pension bill is projected to grow by a third over the next two years, and some Democrats want to impose a 19% tax on hedge funds’ carried interest. At this rate they’re going to need a much bigger tax bribe for those kids to stay in the state.

Appeared in the Apr. 08, 2017, print edition.

 

Retirement Funds for New Purchase

by Bunny Mostad and Deb Alderson

For the person who has good credit and income but not enough money for the down payment on a home, their qualified retirement program could offer them some help. The rules are different depending on whether it is a 401(k), a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA.

Up to half of the balance of a 401(k) or $50,000, whichever is less, can be borrowed by the owner at any age for any reason without tax or penalty assuming the employer permits it. There can be specific rules for loans from 401ks that would determine the repayment; interest is usually charged but goes back into the owner’s account. You can consult with your HR department to find out the specifics.

A risk in borrowing against a 401(k) comes if your employment ends before the loan has been repaid. The loan may have to be repaid with as soon as 60 days to keep the loan from being considered a withdrawal and subject to tax and penalty. Even if you continue with the same employer, failure to repay the loan could be considered a withdrawal also.

Roth IRA owners can withdraw their contributions tax-free and penalty-free at any age for any reason because the contributions were made with post-tax income. After age 59 ½, earnings may be withdrawn as long as the Roth IRA have been in existence for at least five years.

Traditional IRAs have a provision for first-time buyers which include anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the previous two years. A person and their spouse, if married, can each withdraw up to $10,000 from their traditional IRA for a first-time home purchase without incurring the 10% early-withdrawal penalty. However, they will have to recognize the withdrawal as income in that tax year. For more information, go to IRS.gov.

Another interesting fact about this provision is that the taxpayer making the withdrawal can help a relative includes children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents.

If you want more information to clearly understand the issues involved relative to your specific situation, talk to your tax professional or consult www.IRS.gov.

Insurance and Homeowners - peanut butter and jelly

by Bunny Mostad and Deb Alderson

Insurance and homeowners go together like peanut butter and jelly. Lenders require fire insurance at a minimum for homes with a mortgage but many owners opt for a more comprehensive coverage with a homeowner’s policy.

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However, comprehensive doesn’t mean that everything is covered. Filing a claim is not the time to learn that you don’t have the right coverage. Discuss the following issues with your insurance agent to get a better understanding of your policy and whether some adjustments might be in order.

  • Flooding?
  • Rising water? 
  • Mold?
  • Earthquakes?
  • Pools?
  • Termites?
  • Certain kinds of pets or breeds of dogs?
  • Limits on jewelry and cash?
  • Deductible amount?

The whole concept behind buying insurance is to transfer the risk of loss that you cannot afford for an annual premium that you can. Price and coverage need to be considered when comparing policies. Call your agent and make sure you understand what you’re insured for and if there are alternatives available.  If you would like a recommendation, just give us a call.

Fairfield County Has Highest Radon Risks

by Bunny Mostad and Deb Alderson

According to the EPA, Fairfield County’s predicted average radon screening is greater than 4.0 picocuries per liter.  Most people’s first introduction to Radon is during the inspections of a home when it is being purchased. It can be as much a surprise to a seller as it is a buyer. Radon is an invisible and odor-free, cancer-causing radioactive gas.

Radon can get into a home through cracks in solid floors, construction joints, cracks in walls, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, cavities inside walls and even the water supply.

It is estimated that one out of every fifteen homes in the United States has elevated radon levels. The EPA recommends that you test your home which is the only way to find out if you and your family are at risk. If the level found is 4 picocuries per liter or higher, the EPA suggests that you make repairs or install a radon reduction system. Even lower levels can have health risks.

The EPA’s interactive map is available to find state and county information but still recommends that all homes should test for radon. More information can be found from the EPA in A Citizen’s Guide to Radon. Test kits are inexpensive and can be purchased at stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot if you choose to do it yourself. If levels indicate a high enough level, you can contact a qualified radon service professional for another test or to mitigate your home. You can get information on identifying these professionals at www.nrpp.info and www.nrsb.org

Fairfield County Renters Take Notice

by Bunny Mostad and Deb Alderson

Why Pay Your Landord's Mortgage?

Have you checked your mortgage availability recently?  Low rates and low down payments mean you should be building your own equity, not helping your landlord to build his.  Not to mention the great tax write-offs you could be utilizing.

There are many reasons for wanting to have a home of your own like a place to raise your family, share with friends and feel safe and secure.  While investment opportunities rank high for most people based on the fact that homeowners’ net worth is over forty times higher than that of renters, so do the tax benefits that reduce tax liability.

  • Tax payers who have owned and used a home for at least two out of the last five years, can exclude a maximum of $250,000 of gain as a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 of gain for married taxpayers filing jointly.
  • If the gain on a principal residence exceeds the allowed exclusion, the balance is taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rate rather than the marginal tax rate of the homeowner.
  • Homeowners can deduct the interest paid on up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve their first or second home.  They may also deduct the interest on up to $100,000 over acquisition debt that is a recorded lien on their first or second home.
  • IRS will allow taxpayers to decide each year whether to take the higher of the itemized deductions or the standard deduction.
  • Points paid on new loans for home purchases are considered interest and can be deducted in the year paid. On the other hand, points paid for refinancing a home must be amortized over the life of the mortgage.

Should I Buy a Home Now?

by Bunny Mostad and Deb Alderson

I'm often asked if this is a good time to buy a home. Some clients are concerned that home prices may fall down the road, while others are convinced that home prices will go up.

Home prices are one factor in determining your cost of ownership, but so are interest rates and financing availability. Even though interest rates have fluctuated, they are still near historic lows. Since your monthly mortgage payment is a combination of paying down your principal and paying the interest owed, a one point rise in interest rates could cost tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage!

While a home is a major investment, it is also the center of your personal life. It's important to live in a home that reflects your taste and values, yet is within your financial "comfort zone." To that end, it may be more important to lock in today's relatively low interest rates while they are still available.

Please give me a call if I can be of any assistance in determining how much home you can afford in today's market.

Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7

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Bunny Mostad and Deb Alderson
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services NE
272 Post Road East
Westport CT 06880
203-803-5695
203-803-7938