Archive for Personal Property

Bunch Your Taxes and Save

iStock_000016195030XSmall(er).jpgOne of the drawbacks to low mortgage rates is that the total interest and property taxes paid for the year may be lower than the standard deduction.  A little planning might be able to help you at least every other year.

Most homeowners know they can deduct their qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on their Schedule A of their 1040 tax return or to take the standard deduction if it is greater.  See Your Deduction…Your Choice.

Deductions are taken in the year that they’re actually paid.  If a homeowner paid their 2012 property taxes in 2013, they would not be deductible on their 2012 tax return.  Then, if the 2013 property taxes were paid in 2013, both the 2012 and 2013 taxes could be deducted on the 2013 Schedule A.

By delaying the payment of the 2012 taxes until 2013, the combination of the 2012 and 2013 taxes might exceed the 2013 standard deduction and provide a higher deduction.

Other Schedule A expenses such as charitable contributions and medical expenses may be bunched also.  From a practical standpoint, since most mortgage payments are due monthly, the mortgage interest would not be bunched.

This information should be discussed with your tax advisor to see how it might apply to your individual situation.  The key is you must be aware of the strategy early to be able to use it.

Maintaining Comfort

Some people refer to the heating and air conditioning systems as the “comfort systems.”  If you’ve ever had to be without one in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, lack of comfort may be an understatement.  Simple maintenance with a HVAC checklist is something that every homeowner can perform.

Periodically

  • Change your filter every 90 days; every 30 days if you have shedding pets.
  • Maintain at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  • Don’t allow leaves, grass clippings, lint or other things to block circulation of coils.
  • Inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into house monthly and replace if missing or damaged.

Annual, in spring

  •  Confirm that outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps are on level pads.
  • Pour bleach in the air conditioner’s condensation drain to clear mold and algae which can cause a clog.
  • Avoid closing more than 20% of a home’s registers to keep from overworking the system.
  • Replace the battery in the home’s carbon monoxide detector.

Even with the attention that perfoming this list will provide, it is recommended that you have your units serviced annually by a licensed contractor.  Furnaces can be inspected for carbon monoxide leaks and preventative maintenance may help avoid costly repairs.  Click Here if you’d like a recommendation.

Before You Leave Home…

The last thing you want to do while you’re on a trip is to worry about someone burglarizing your home. Use this checklist to add some peace of mind to your travel plans.

  • Ask a trusted friend – to pick up your mail and newspaper and keep the yard free of trash and advertisements.
  • Stop your mail but maybe not your newspaper – you can easily handle this online by going to the US Postal Service’s Hold Mail Service. A recent story implicated an employee from a major newspaper who was passing customer hold requests to burglars.
  • Don’t post about your trip on Facebook and Twitter until you return – some burglars actually look for this type of announcement to schedule their activities.
  • Do notify police and/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 – use several set for different times to better simulate someone at home.
  • Do unplug certain appliances – TVs, 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.

Safe and Secure…

Home is a place you should feel safe and secure. Sometimes, we take it for granted and unfortunately, we do need to remain vigilant about things we do that could compromise our well-being. Here are a few tips you might want to consider.

  1. Everyone loves an inviting home including burglars. Make sure it looks occupied and is difficult to break in.
    • Always lock outside doors and windows even if you’re gone only a short time.
    • Leave lights on when you leave. Consider timers to automatically control the lights.
    • Keep your garage door closed even when you’re home; don’t tempt thieves with what you have in your garage.
    • Suspend your mail and newspaper delivery when you’re out of town or get a neighbor to pick it up for you.
  2. Posting that you’re out of town or away from home on social networks is like advertising your home is unprotected.
  3. Equally dangerous could be allowing certain social network sites to track your location.
  4. Don’t leave keys under doormats, in flowerpots or the plastic rocks; thieves know about those hiding places and even more than you can think.
  5. Trim the shrubs from around your home; don’t give criminals a place to hide.

Insurance and Your Valuables

Personal computers have been around long enough that everyone has experienced or knows someone who has lost their data due to a hard drive crash, accident or burglary. If they had a backup, the loss was inconvenient but not critical.

Do you have a backup for your personal belongings? Not that you need duplicates of all the items but do you have a journal listing of all the items with a description and their approximate values? That record becomes the backup that supports the claim for your insurance.

If a building sustains a total loss, the insurance company will usually pay the face amount of the policy. When it comes to personal property which might be 40% to 50% of the insured value of the dwelling, the insurance company is going to expect an accounting with receipts or at least, a relatively recent inventory.

The better your inventory, the less likely you’ll have difficulty with the claim. Almost everyone has a digital camera that can take stills and probably even videos. The combination of the images as well as a written description will help you replace the belongings and serve as proof to the insurance company.

Once you’ve made the inventory, store it off site for safe keeping. Online storage in the “cloud” might be the best place to insure you’ll always know where it is. Contact me for a free Home Inventory form; it’s my way of helping you be a better homeowner.