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Talking Real Estate - December 2019

BHHS Stein & Summers Real Estate

HOMEBUYERS’ ADVICE

Loving the Ranch-style Home

All housing reflects the culture and the economics of their day, and the ranch-style home of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s is a symbol of post-World War II prosperity and an icon of the space age.

The mid-century saw the first real sprawl in communities away from town centers, made accessible by the increasingly affordable family car aided by President Eisenhower’s new highways. Land was plentiful, so most of these single-story or split-level homes are situated on comparatively large lots, with kid-friendly front and back yards.

These homes were designed as machines for living, with streamlined designs of the space age. Ranch homes were easy and quick to build, and a snap to remodel, as most load-bearing walls are on the outside perimeter.

Mid-century ranch-style homes are the perfect answer for today’s two-income, time-starved families. The only thing they need is a little 21st century flair. Just replace those linoleum floors and Jetson-era Formica countertops with contemporary stone. Install elegant French doors in place of sliding glass patio doors. Raise the eight feet ceilings to nine or 10 feet through the attic. Hang your flat-screen TV in place of the starburst clock, and buy some stylish retro furnishings and you’re cool, man.

FINANCIAL ADVICE

How to Challenge Higher Property Taxes

According to the National Taxpayers Union, between 30% and 60% of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed, yet less than 5% of homeowners appeal their assessments.

Your2020 tax assessment will outline county, city and school taxes, as well as special assessments. Look online or call the assessor’s office for a list of factors used to evaluate properties and render assessments, including time frames. Compare them to your bill and make sure your square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths are listed correctly.

If you can’t find the assessment rate on your statement, call the taxing authority and ask what the assessment rate is for your home’s location. There should also be directions for how to file an appeal, by mail, electronically and in person. You’ll be given a specific time and date for your appeal.

Your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professional may be able to help by providing you with a comparable market analysis of similar homes sold or on the market in 2019. Choose three to five properties with the same age, size, and condition of your home, noting any differences between the homes, such as additions or other improvements.

Your estimated property taxes could be escrowed, but you might owe more. You could also owe less if any discounts available apply to you. Some taxing authorities give seniors, workforce personnel (teachers, police, EMTs and fire personnel) and military veterans a break.

HOMEBUYERS’ ADVICE

“Flaneur” the Way To Your Next Home

Have you ever taken the time to stroll the marketplace in your neighborhood or the city simply for the pleasure of observation? Then you might be what the French call a “flaneur.”  The flaneur was first described in the writings of 19th century poet Charles Baudelair as one who casually wanders, watches and chronicles the street life they observe. You could try the concept to help you find your next home.

You can wander neighborhoods you’re interested in by car, bus or train, but you can do so much more effectively by foot. Start at places with lots of activity, like shopping centers, business districts or city parks. Try to have no other agenda except to meander and let the sights, sounds and smells of the streets make their impressions on you. Go during the workday, on the weekend and at night. Find a coffee shop or café with outdoor seating so you can sit comfortably and take in the surroundings. Talk with a few residents or shopkeepers to learn more about the area.

Next, walk the neighborhoods that the commercial area serves. What are the homes like? Are they well kept? Are they within walking distance or a short drive to locations you would use, like a school, restaurant or fitness center? 

Your feelings should tell you a lot. Do you feel attracted to the area or indifferent? Do you feel safe, happy and at ease? You’ll soon know if this is a community you want to join.

HOMEBUYERS’ ADVICE

Is It Time To Buy a Vacation Home?

You may be feeling fairly flush these days, with a bigger salary, job security, appreciating homestead and other wise investments. Now might be the right time for you to buy a vacation home.

According to the 2019 U.S. Vacation Home Counties Report compiled by the National Association of REALTORS, the median price of vacation homes between 2013 and 2018 appreciated 36% compared to existing and new homes at 31%.

Like many vacation home buyers, you may be thinking of a great family getaway, but you can also use a second home as an additional way to build equity. You can lease it for income, and then use the property as your primary residence upon retirement.

Banks have stiffer qualifying requirements and charge higher mortgage rates for non-primary homes. Federal tax laws allow you to deduct interest for both a primary and second home up to $750,000 for married couples and $375,000 for singles, as well as local property tax amounts paid. However, you only have one homestead that qualifies for the owner/occupant tax rate from your local taxing authority.

If you rent the property fewer than 14 days, you don’t have to report rental income to the IRS. Otherwise, you should go to IRS.gov or ask your accountant to explain rental income rules so you can be better prepared at tax time.

©2019 BHH Affiliates, LLC. Real Estate Brokerage Services are offered through the network member franchisees of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Most franchisees are independently owned and operated. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.® Information not verified or guaranteed. If your property is currently listed with a Broker, this is not intended as a solicitation. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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