Returning Home after a Fire Evacuation

July 30th, 2018

Fire Evacuation

When you’ve been given the “all clear” to return home after a fire evacuation, there are some important safety procedures you need to be aware of and follow.

Hazard assessment of your home.

Even if your home was not burned, you need to be aware of potential hazards both inside and outside of your home. Spoiled food, gardens covered in ash, and smoke damage are just a few of the things you need to evaluate. The power to your home could have gone out for an extended period of time during your evacuation, causing foods in your refrigerator and freezer to warm to unsafe levels. Consider the tips on the below resources to ensure you take appropriate steps after returning home from a fire evacuation.

Cal Fire: http://www.calfire.ca.gov/…/ReturningHomeAfterAfterAFire_print.pdf

Colorado State University: http://extension.colostate.edu/…/kitchen-after-fire.pdf

Make sure to take care of YOU!

What you have just experienced is both emotional and stressful. The CDC has put together some resources to help you cope with walking through this experience. If you are feeling overwhelmed, overly stressed, or depressed, please seek professional help from a counselor.

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/…/afterfire.html

Even if your home was undamaged, going through a fire evacuation can be stressful. We want you to know we are all rooting for you!


5 Home Maintenance Tasks You Shouldn’t Forget

June 13th, 2018

Maintenance Tasks

Part of being a good homeowner is making sure your home stays properly maintained, so you don’t have larger issues to deal with down the road. Here are five important home maintenance tasks that often get forgotten.

Changing Air Filters
A dirty air filter can restrict air flow making your HVAC system work harder and less efficiently. It will also not be able to filter out the dust and allergens as well as it should. Most filters need to be replaced every three to six months, but check with your filter’s recommendation. Tip: Write the date you replaced the filter on the outside edge to help remind you when you installed it.

Cleaning Dryer Vents
Clogged dryer vents (the pipe that vents your dryer outside your home) cause numerous house fires ever year. Homeowners and renters should have the vent cleaned annually to help drastically reduce the chance of a house fire. You can hire a professional to clean and service the vent, or you may be able to pick up a DIY brush and pole kit at your local hardware store that connects to any standard battery-powered drill. If you haven’t had your vent cleaned in a few years, make sure to get it serviced right away.

Checking Fire Extinguishers
We assume your home has a few fire extinguishers around it (if not, it should!) Many people do not realize that fire extinguishers don’t last forever, even if they haven’t been used. Make sure to check the pressure gauge on your fire extinguishers at least four times a year to ensure the needle is still in the green zone. Also check that the hose does not look cracked or worn. If it does, make sure to replace it immediately.

Cleaning Gutters
Gutters should be cleared of leaves and debris and inspected for leaks once or twice a year to ensure they are working properly. Clogged gutters can pool water, creating a breeding ground for mosquitos or even water damage to your home. Once the gutters have been cleared, run a hose or bucket of water through the gutters starting at the furthest end from the down spout. Take note of any leaks and caulk them once the gutter is dry.

Sealing Leaks Around Doors and Windows
Rubber seals and caulking around doors and windows wear out over time, becoming less effective at preventing heating and cooling loss. Make sure to check for hot/cool spots and repair them immediately. A properly sealed home can help reduce energy costs and keep out unwanted pests like ants.


4 Ways to Take Advantage of the Current Real Estate Market

January 22nd, 2018

Neighborhood

It’s no secret that housing inventory has been low the past year, causing buyer competition and rising home prices/values. Many homeowners don’t realize they may be able to leverage the current market, even if they don’t plan to purchase a new home anytime soon. The mix of rising home values and low interest rates may offer you an opportunity to leverage your home’s equity to:

Refinance and Consolidate Debt – Extracting equity from your home to pay off auto loans, school loans, credit cards, and other debts allows you to roll these debts into one mortgage payment. This can often be beneficial if you are paying high interest rates on your non-mortgage related debts.

Remodel – Today, there are several great loan programs that allow you to finance home renovations, repairs, and updates into your home loan. This can be a great option for homeowners that want to stay in their current home, and utilize their home’s equity to make needed updates.

Eliminate Mortgage Insurance – With the growing home values we have seen the past few years, many borrowers are opting to refinance and eliminate their mortgage insurance. This has the potential to save you a lot of money every month on your mortgage payment.

Refinance into a Shorter-term Loan – Shorter-term home loans, such as 15 and 20-year loans typically offer lower interest rates. Today’s low rates make it a great time to consider refinancing into these shorter-term home loans, as they allow you to pay down your home loan faster and spend less money on interest each month.

If you’re interested in learning more and would like to compare your current home loan to one of these options, please contact us today.


2018 Tax Reform – What Does it Mean for Homeowners?

January 22nd, 2018

Tax Reform - Mortgage Q&A

As you likely know, Congress passed a tax reform that went into law on January 1, 2018. Several provisions in the bill are directly tied to homeownership. There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation around these amended provisions, as the initial policy that the House of Representatives passed differed from what was actually put into law. While we are not tax advisors – and we do encourage you to consult with your tax advisor – we hope these answers will help clear up some confusion.

IS MORTGAGE INTEREST STILL DEDUCTIBLE?

Yes, the mortgage interest deduction remains intact for all current homeowners on mortgages up to $1,000,000 ($500,000 if married filing separately). For all new mortgages after December 14, 2017 interest will only be deductible on loans up to $750,000 ($375,000 if married filing separately).

CAN I STILL DEDUCT MY HOME EQUITY LOAN (HELOC) INTEREST?

No, in most cases interest on home equity loans is no longer tax deductible for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 and through December 31, 2025. There is an exclusion that may allow you to write off the interest if the proceeds of the HELOC are used to substantially improve the property. We encourage you to consult with your tax advisor.

CAN I STILL DEDUCT MY PROPERTY TAXES?

Taxpayers can deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes, which include property taxes. You will no longer be able to write off all of them if your state and local taxes exceed $10,000.

IS THERE STILL A CAPITAL GAINS TAX EXEMPTION ON THE SALE OF PRIMARY RESIDENCES?

Yes, this remained unchanged. Capital gains are exempt up to $250,000 ($500,000 if married) on the sale or exchange of your principal residence if you have lived in the home for the last 2 out of 5 years.

ARE MORTGAGE CREDIT CERTIFICATES (MCCS) STILL AVAILABLE?

Yes, MCCs were not impacted.

CAN I STILL WRITE OFF MOVING EXPENSES RELATED TO A CHANGE IN MY JOB?

No, job-related moving expenses are no longer tax deductible unless you are a member of the armed forces on active duty that moved due to military orders.

It’s important to note that the above tax write-offs only have value if you will be itemizing your deductions. Unfortunately, the new tax reform raised the standard deduction to $12,000 for taxpayers filing individually and $24,000 if married filing jointly. This means, many taxpayers may not be itemizing their deductions going forward.

Sources:

Tax Reform Law Chart: Prior Law vs. New Law (Published by the California Association of Realtors® on 12-28-17)

The Modified Home Mortgage Interest Deduction (Published by Forbes.com on 12-28-17)

3 Changes to Itemized Deductions Under Tax Reform Bill (Published by HRBlock.com on 12-22-18)


Federal Reserve Raises Benchmark Interest Rate for Third Time in 2017

December 18th, 2017

Federal Reserve Raises Benchmark Interest Rate

On December 13th, the Federal Reserve once again raised its benchmark short-term interest rate by 0.25%. This was the third rate increase by the Federal Reserve in 2017. With a positive economic outlook for this coming year, the Federal Reserve anticipates further increasing the benchmark interest rate another three times in 2018.1

So, what does that mean for mortgages? If you currently have a fixed-rate home loan, not much. The biggest impact will come for borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages and Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs), as they will likely see their mortgage interest rate increase the next time their rate is set to adjust.

In addition, those looking for a new home loan in the future – whether fixed or adjustable rate – may see higher interest rates than what we have been currently enjoying. While the Federal Reserve’s rate increases only indirectly impact fixed-rate mortgages, historically they follow the momentum of the Federal Reserve’s benchmark rate. So, it’s anticipated that as the Federal Reserve increases the benchmark rate, mortgages will continue on an upward trend as well.

1Source: USAToday.com (Published 12-13-17) https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2017/12/13/federal-reserve-december-decision-janet-yellen-interest-rates/946193001/


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