Tax Implications When Selling a Home*

Home sellers used to be penalized when they sold a home, paying huge capital gains taxes on their next tax return. However,the United States government saw fit to change that taxation process with the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.  Now, many people qualify for no capital gains at all, depending on their income and tax situation. Take a look at some sample situations that can help you to avoid tax-related headaches and stay ahead of the financial curve. Single Owners – If you are a single homeowner, you are not required to pay capital gains unless the profit is higher than $250,000. You can figure out your profit by subtracting the sold price from the original price paid.  From that figure, you can also deduct any major household improvements made over the years, including an additional room or in-ground pool installation. For most homeowners, their profit is conservative, allowing them to pocket the money or put it toward a new property.  Married Homeowners – Because a home may be larger for a married couple, the government stipulates that up to $500,000 in profit is acceptable to avoid taxation. However, there is a significant tax rate when profits are above the $500,000 threshold.  In general, your tax rate is around 20 percent.  For example, your profit is $600,000. You need to pay a 20 percent tax on the $100,000 above the threshold. As a result,you owe $20,000 in taxes alone.  Time Constraints – You must pay capital gains only if you lived in the home for less than two years. For most homeowners, this time constraint is not applicable.  As long as you remain in a home as a primary residence, you can technically sell and buy a home every two years without paying capital gains.  For families trying to grow their family and wealth, this tax relief is a welcome sight. There is no limit to the amount of times you can buy or sell with no tax liability.  Special Circumstances – The government recognizes that there are extenuating circumstances that must be accounted for.  If you bought a house and were transferred to a different state by your employer within one year, for example, you are exempt from paying capital gains.  Other issues, including long-term government or private company duties, free you from paying taxes as well. Documented health problems, such as suffering from cancer, allow you to skip taxes if you must move before the two-year limit. If You Owe – It is best to contact a tax professional.  He can look over your personal situation to find out the tax cost.  In general, tax professionals take the sold price and reduce it with documented capital improvements and depreciation costs.  You can also deduct some of the closing costs to lower your tax liability.  However, high profits mean higher taxes overall.  Selling a home is much easier than it used to be. Go over your personal situation when considering selling prices. Receiving a conservative profit on your home is helpful when it comes to tax liability.

*I am a Realtor, not an accountant or attorney; this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace your consulting with a tax professional.

90274 Zip Code Facts

The 90274 zip code includes the cities of Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills Estates, Rolling Hills and the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County (Palos Verdes Peninsula).

There are 9437 households of which 87% are owner occupied;  71% are married; 35% have children.   The median home sales price is $1,225,000.  The median age of the inhabitants of this zip code is 31.88 years; 38% have a bachelor degree and 25% have graduate degrees.  83% are white collar workers, mostly in service industries and most commute by car thirty minutes to their places of work.

This information was obtained from the Realist tax portion of our Multiple Listing Service and though believed to be accurate, is not guaranteed.

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Household Problems You Can Solve

There are problems around the house that you should certainly call a professional to fix, such as a leaking roof, but here are some solutions to common problems that you can fix on your own:

Problem:  Countertop scuff

You will need a crayon, a spatula knife, and a microwave-safe bowl.  Pick the crayon whose color comes closest to matching your countertop.  Peel off the paper, place it in the bowl and place in the microwave.  Pour the hot, melted crayon onto the scuff mark and work it into the indentation with the spatula knife.  Scrape off the excess with the spatula knife.  The crayon mixture will harden and dry quickly, erasing the countertop flaw.

Problem:  Loose cabinet hinge

You will need wooden matches, wood glue and a hammer.  Remove the cabinet hinge screw.  Dab wood glue on a match and stick it into the screw holes.  Tap it in with the hammer.  Break off the match part that is sticking out.  Let the glue dry for about four hours.  Twist the screw back into place.  The match piece will create a new solid base for the screw.

Problem:  Squeaky floor

You will need talcum powder.  Sprinkle the powder over the squeaky section and sweep it into the cracks.

Problem:  Stained bathtub

You will need cream of tartar, baking soda, lemon juice and a soft cloth.  Combine equal amounts of cream of tartar and baking soda with enough lemon juice to make a paste.  Rub the mixture into the stain with your fingers or a soft cloth.  Let it sit for a half hour, then rinse well with water.

Problem:  Drywall hole

You will need wire screen, a pencil, a joint knife, masking tape, sandpaper and drywall compound.  Cut the wire screen two inches larger than the hole.  Tie one end of the string to the pencil and thread the other end through the middle of the screen; bend the screen, and insert it and the pencil into the hole.  Pull the string until the screen is flat against the hole ( the pencil will help push the screen flat against the drywall) and hold it taut while you apply the drywall compound.  Tape the string to the wall to hold the screen in place as the compound dries.  Cut the string when dry.   Sand and smooth the compound with the joint knife.

Problem:  Torn window screen

You will need clear nail polish.  Slather the nail polish over the hole in the screen, both inside and outside.  Let it dry and no more bugs will sneak in.  (This is my favorite!)

Secrets for Selling Your Home

Selling a house is a complicated process, no matter how good the real estate market is.  Whether you are a first-time seller or not, you will probably have a bunch of questions.  What is closing?  How much paperwork am I going to fill out?  How can I get the best price for my house?  How can I sell my house and buy a new one at the same time?

Secret #1: The kitchen comes first.  You are not actually selling your house; you are selling your kitchen-that is how important it is.  The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless and the best part of it is that you will probably get 85% of your money back.  It may be a few thousand dollars to replace counter-tops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated.  The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware.  Use neutral-colored paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style.  If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance.  Why one?  Because when people see one high-end appliance, they think all the rest are expensive too and it updates the kitchen.

Secret#2: Take the home out of your house.  One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it.  The more personal belongings in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there.  Get rid of at least a third of your things; put it in storage.  This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes.  Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home.  Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.

Secret #3: Audit your real estate professional’s online marketing.  92% of home buyers start their house hunt online, and they will never even get in the car to come see your home if the online listings are not compelling; compelling means pictures.  Listings with more than six pictures are twice as likely to be viewed by buyers as listing that had fewer than six photos.  Be sure to ask your agent to only include attractive pictures and this means no ugly pictures of the toilet with its seat up.

Secret#4: Renovate wisely.  The average remodeling payback in the past ten years has dropped from 82% in 2003 to 60.6% this year, according to Remodeling Magazine. Bringing up the rear are a dedicated home office and adding a sun room.  Topping the list are steel entry-door replacements followed by fiber-cement exterior siding.  Sellers routinely underestimate the positive impact of simple home improvements such as repainting and minor fix-ups.

Secret#5: Sweeten the deal.  Another way to make the home and deal more attractive to buyers is to offer things or terms that might sweeten the pot.  For example, sellers that offer the buyer a couple of thousand dollars credit toward closing costs, or a credit for the purchase of new flooring receive more attention from house hunters looking at similar homes.  In a down market buyers are looking for a deal, so do your best to make them feeling they are getting one.

Secret#6: Make all necessary repairs.  Even minor things, such as a leaky faucet or chipped paint on a baseboard, can suggest to buyers that you might not be maintaining the house well in other ways, too.

Secret#7: Focus on curb appeal.  First impressions matter.  A house with chipping paint, overgrown bushes and patchy grass will not make a good impression.  You may have to spend money to make the exterior of your house more appealing, but it is money well spent if it gets potential buyers in the door.  If your house is in good shape on the outside, buyers will see it as one less thing they have to spend money on once they move in.

 

Countdown to Home Buying

The market is improving; inventory is low.  Check this countdown list to make sure you are ready to purchase:

1.  Get Pre-approved.  You are pre-approved when your credit has been checked and confirmed and your income, assets and employment history have been verified.  Be careful; some so-called pre-approvals are not worth the paper they are written on.  I have received “pre-approval” letters from lenders and submitted them with offers to purchase only to find out later that the buyer was not able to obtain a loan.  Sometimes it is advantageous to work with loan officers at the bank with which you do business, as they have a vested interest in your continuing to do business with them.

2.  Temper your expectations.  Listing inventory in the Palos Verdes area and the entire South Bay is only 50% of what it was last year.  This means that if you want to stick to any sort of budget, you are not likely going to get everything you want or you will have to be patient.  Have a clear understanding of your needs, wants and wishes, so you will take action when the right home becomes available.

3.  Be ready to compete.  Unless you are willing to purchase a home an outlying area or in need of a lot of repairs, prepare yourself to make multiple offers and compete with other buyers in the market.

4.  Be prepared to act quickly.  When you find the home of your dreams, you need to be ready to rush to get it.  If you do not act quickly and start making preparations right away, you may find yourself left out in the cold when it comes time for your offer to be accepted.

5.  Watch your behavior at open houses.  Everything you do and say when in front of the listing agent (seller’s agent) or his representative will inevitably be shared with the seller and may come back to haunt you when your make an offer the purchase the home.  Both being too excited about the home or nit-picking the condition of the home can put you at a disadvantage at the negotiating table.

6.  Call your real estate agent.  Actually, this step should be first.  Contact me at 310-995-3754 or Katie@katiemuck.com as soon as you would like to begin the process!

Quick Updates to Your Home

It happens to all homeowners.  Rooms that once looked fresh and contemporary have aged themselves into drabness.  For some it is an excuse to redecorate.  For others it is a chore.  Either way, homeownership is an ever-evolving process.  As one project ends, another peaks its head around the corner.

To bring your rooms current, as well as to update worn and disheveled items, consider these five room freshening tips:

1.  Paint: Paint is number one on the list because it is relatively cheap and easy to do yourself.  Getting a professional finish is simple, thanks to a myriad of products now on the market for the do-it-yourselfers.  From tape to edgers to color changing paint, you are sure to get a quality finished product.  “In” colors change every few years, so be sure to do some homework on what hues are in style.  While you are at it, research zero-voc  (volatile organic compound) paint before starting your project.  Traditional paint leaches fumes into your home for years.  Zero-voc paint, however, exposes you to fewer odors during the painting process and fewer risky fumes in the years to come.  This is well worth the effort of searching out zero-voc and the cost difference per gallon is minimal.  Paint does wonders for hiding dirt, wear, and tear.  Bring your home into the new decade with a fresh coat.

2.  Trim: The current trend for trim in the rooms of a house is to be white instead of natural wood.  It is contemporary and clean.  If your trim work is in good repair, simply puttying holes, sanding scuffs and painting can update the look.  Dated trim that is too thin for your large rooms can be replaced with new baseboards.  An amateur handyman can tackle this task with table and coping saws.  Trim is all about getting the angle out correctly.  If you already have current looking trim, upgrade your room with crown molding.

3.  Cabinet Hardware: From oil-rubbed bronze to beautiful vintage pieces, old is in.  Hardware can easily be added to any existing cabinetry or changed to bring a new feel to a tired room.  Shop your local home improvement stores, online and at local auctions to find the pieces that truly speak to you.

4.  Decorative Accents: Curtains are the frame to any well-designed room.  Choose colors and patterns that fit the scale of your room.  Heavy curtains made from chenille or jacquard work best in large rooms with tall ceilings.  Lighter weight fabrics, such as silk and chiffon, are great choices for small or airy rooms.  Decorative pillows and throws are also an inexpensive way to change the accents of your room.  Bright is in; do not be afraid to play with color.

5.  Flooring: While flooring is not a simple fix and may require the help of a professional, it can make all the difference in a dated room.  Scratched and worn wood floors should be sanded and refinished to show the natural beauty of the wood.  Laminate wood flooring is an inexpensive and easy solution for homeowners who want a clean and modern update.  I recommend that you do not over-do this type of flooring; it should be in a room or two but not the entire house.

If your rooms are looking tired, be sure to wake them up with a few new colors, paints or accents.