Home Expert Tips from Julie Billett
Julie Billett, ABR, CRS  |  Windermere Real Estate/Northeast, Inc.
Email: juliebillett@windermere.com  | Phone: 206-819-0685
 
In This Issue
Easy-to-Miss Homeowner Tax Savings*
Links that Make Life Easier
The Lighter Side
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Tax rules can be complicated, and some of them have changed quite recently.  Are you up to date on the ones that affect your 2012 return?  Here's a summary of tax savings opportunities that homeowners sometimes overlook.

 

By the way, if you or anyone you know has a real estate need, please contact me today. I'll always provide first-class service!
 
 
Easy-to-Miss Homeowner Tax Savings*     

  

The Mortgage Insurance Premium Deduction
(Yes, It's Back)

 

In early 2012 the big news was that the deduction for mortgage insurance premiums had become a thing of the past.  Many people are not aware that as part of the fiscal cliff agreement it was reinstated not only for 2013, but retroactively for 2012 as well.

 

This applies to private mortgage insurance (PMI), as well as mortgage insurance provided by the VA, FHA, and Rural Housing Service. 

 

There are a few restrictions on claiming the deduction and it starts phasing out at certain income levels, so check the Mortgage Insurance Premiums section of IRS Publication 936 for details.

 

 


 

Mortgage Interest on a Second Home

 

You might be aware that you can deduct mortgage interest on a second home in addition to your primary residence, but did you know that the definition of "second home" is extremely broad, to say the least?

 

RV and boat

According to the IRS, a qualified home "includes a house, condominium, cooperative, mobile home, house trailer, boat, or similar property that has sleeping, cooking, and toilet facilities."

 

(In other words, a boat or the RV that tows it around might qualify.)  

 

Non-Rental Second Home:  You do not even have to use your second home during the tax year as long as you do not hold it out for rent or resale to others.

 

Second Home Rented Out:  If you rent out your second home, the IRS states that "you must use this home more than 14 days or more than 10% of the number of days during the year that the home is rented at a fair rental, whichever is longer" in order for it to qualify for the second home mortgage interest deduction. 

 

There are restrictions, not surprisingly, so see the Qualified Home section of Publication 936 for more information. 

 

 


 

Medically Required Home Improvements   

 

You can deduct part of the cost of home improvements if their main purpose is medical care for you, your spouse, or your dependent.  However, there are some pretty tight guidelines: 

  • You can deduct only the amount that is greater than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income in 2012.  (This increases to 10 percent for many people in 2013.)  
  • If the improvement increases the value of your home, the medical expense is the cost of the improvement minus the amount of increase in home value.  

The cost of maintaining and operating a capital improvement, such as an elevator, can also count as a medical expense as long as the improvement's main purpose is medical care. 

 

See the Capital Expenses section of Publication 502 to check other guidelines of this tax deduction, and note the list of improvements that, according to the IRS, do not add to home value.  This means their entire cost can be counted as a medical expense.  

 

 


 

Points Paid on a Home Loan     

 

The IRS allows you to deduct certain charges paid in connection with various home loans, including refinances and home equity loans.  These costs are typically referred to as "loan origination fees, maximum loan charges, loan discount, or discount points."

 

The big question is usually, "Can I deduct the entire amount in the year I paid it, or does it get deducted over the life of the loan?"

This depends on your answers to the nine questions in the Points section of Publication 936.  The IRS also has a really handy "yes or no" flowchart that you can use to get an idea; click here or on the image below to see it.

Screenshot and link to IRS flowchart.

Did You Know?

  • Seller-paid points can be used as a tax deduction by the buyer. 
  • An origination fee needs to be listed as a percentage of the principal loan amount rather than as a flat fee on your HUD-1 Settlement Statement in order to qualify as a cost that you can deduct entirely in the year you paid it.

 


 

Rental Property Expenses 

 

This is a huge area of consideration for landlords; suffice to say that some important tax rules have changed recently.  Here's a link to an interesting article from the legal site Nolo.com, explaining how the definitions of "repair" and "improvement" will be different in January of 2014, and how that could affect the owners of rental property.

 

Repairs vs. Improvements: Complicated New Rules Go Into Effect in 2014

To see the associated IRS rules, click here.  You might also find this Nolo.com article useful:

If you're feeling brave (or just had seven cups of coffee that need to be worked off) you can go straight to IRS Publication 527 to read about rental income and expenses.

 


 

* The Bottom Line...

 

Nothing beats an expert opinion when you're dealing with issues that could save (or cost) you many thousands of dollars. The notes above are not expert financial or legal advice, but are meant to keep you informed of issues that you could investigate further with a qualified tax professional if you wish.

   

 

 

Are you planning to buy or sell a home, or do you know someone who is?  Please call or email me - I'm never too busy to help you and the people you care about with real estate.
 
 
(What the lawyers make us say: The information in this newsletter is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Please always consult a qualified expert before making decisions based on this content. Nothing in this article is meant to be taken as expert legal, financial, or medical advice.) 
 
  
   
Links that Make Life Easier 

Sometimes real estate-related, sometimes not... these are assorted links that come in handy:

See amazing transformations of rooms in rental homes that go from very shabby to very chic.  
  
Better Homes and Gardens puts you on the right track for a healthy lawn and garden this year.
 
From bulbs to perennials to shade plants, this article tells you what flowers to plant and when to do it.

No, not real animals. :) This is a cute Easter egg project that kids will enjoy.

Kiplinger gives an in-depth list of general tax deductions you really may not know about, and even includes a few housing-related tax tips not mentioned above.


The Lighter Side

 

These slow motion shots of an osprey hunting are unusually compelling.  Try looking at the sequence starting 50 seconds into it, when the osprey lines up to catch a fish and shortly afterwards shakes the water off of its body while flying and carrying the fish.  The aeronautics involved are just mind-boggling, and the video shows that beautifully. 

 

Osprey diving

Click here or on the image above to watch the video on the family-friendly Flixxy website.

 

 

 
I welcome the opportunity to serve you, your friends and your associates. Please give me a call today if I can be of any assistance.

Warm Regards,
 

Julie Billett, ABR, CRS
Windermere Real Estate/Northeast, Inc.
Email: juliebillett@windermere.com
Phone: 206-819-0685

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I recommend the best service providers and resources I know, but I don't assume any liability so please use your best judgment. Feedback on your experience is welcome.

 

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