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Published: October 18, 2011
Sometimes home owners don’t know their houses are haunted until a remodel disturbs the spirit world. Over the years, I’ve had more than one friend tell me their house is haunted. Usually, the ghosts are harmless pranksters who move items on a dresser, or leave small toys in a house that hasn’t seen kids in years.
What prompts this supernatural silliness? It may be a recent home improvement project.
“When you remodel, you change the restful spirits’ environment, and it may not be comfortable with the outcome,” according to David’s Ghost Hunting Blog, which collects ghost stories. “Some may bother you just to let you know, ‘Hey! You may have changed the house, but I’m still here!”
We at HouseLogic want you to get the most out of your remodel project. Occasionally, that may mean more than you bargained for. Get your Halloween spirit stirred up and check out these spooky renovation tales:
1. After a major kitchen remodel, a Virginia home owner believes a ghost repeatedly locks her son in the basement, even after she has removed all keys from sight.
2. Soon after a young couple bumped out the front of their house, an otherwise friendly ghost began making trouble. The ghost stole tools, pulled down drywall, and pushed workers.
3. Through the years, claims have surfaced that the White House is haunted. Mysterytopia has pictures of a 1950 remodeling that shows, if you look hard enough, an apparition supposedly standing in the middle of the renovation.
4. The moment a South Dakota woman walked into her 1910 home, she felt that the kitchen was backwards, even though she’d never been in the house before. When the real estate agent confirmed that during a previous kitchen remodel, the configuration had indeed been reversed, the new home owner wondered if she had been receiving messages from another world.
5. Soon after remodeling began on the historic Felt Mansion in Holland, Mich., shadowy figures appeared and doors opened and closed themselves. Click on this video and decide for yourself if the mansion is haunted.
Doing your homework will help you have a more successful experience.
Use this checklist to help you select a home builder or home remodeler to work on or build your home.
- Contact your local home builders’ association for the names of member builders and remodelers: Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky (click). You can also ask family, friends or coworkers for recommendations.
- Make sure the builder or home remodeler has a permanent business location and a good reputation with local banks and suppliers.
- Find out how long they have been in the building business. It usually takes three to five years to establish a financially sound business. You want to make sure they will be around after the construction is complete to service any warranties.
- Check out the company’s rating and if there have been any complaints filed with your local Better Business Bureau (click). Make sure the builder/remodeler has sufficient workers compensation and general liability insurance. If not, you may be liable for any construction-related accidents on your premises.
- Ask the builder/remodeler to provide you with names of previous customers. If they won’t, beware. If they do, ask the customers if they would hire the builder/remodeler again.
- Ask if you can see the builder/remodelers work, both completed and in progress. Check for quality of workmanship and materials.
- Do you feel you can easily communicate with the builder/remodeler? Remember you will be in close contact with them throughout the construction process and afterward as you live in your new home.
- Make sure the builder/remodeler provides you with a complete and clearly written contract. The contract will benefit both of you. If you are having a new home built, get and review a copy of the home warranty and homeowner manual as well.
- Be cautious of unusually low-priced bids. If the builder/remodeler is unable to pay for the materials and labor as the project proceeds, this may indicate a potential problem. Keep in mind that less expensive does not necessarily mean better!
- Verify that your remodeler is an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Renovator if you are planning work in a pre-1978 home that will disturb more than six square feet of painted surfaces inside the home or 20 square feet on the exterior of the home. Learn more about the EPA’s lead paint rule.
Did you know there are more than 27 million veterans eligible for VA financing? These potential homebuyers enjoy significant loan advantages not available to non?veteran homebuyers. If you’re working with prospective homebuyers right now, check with them to see if they are veterans. If they are, make sure they are aware of the VA financing advantages available to them.
What are the advantages of VA financing?
? Loan may be up to 100 percent of the property value. Generally, loans may not exceed $417,000. Subject to change each year.
? You don’t have to be a first?time homebuyer.
? No PMI required.
? The VA limits the closing costs the buyer pays.
? Closing costs may be paid by the seller.
? Right to prepay the loan without penalty.
? VA offers personal loan servicing and financial counseling to help veterans during financial difficulties.
Who is eligible?
? Veterans and active duty personnel.
? Certain reservists and National Guard members.
? Surviving spouses of persons who die on active duty or of service?connected disabilities.
? Certain spouses of active duty personnel who are (a) missing in action, (b) captured in line of duty by a hostile force, or (c) forcibly detained by a foreign government or power.
What are the buyer requirements to obtain a VA loan?
? The applicant must be an eligible veteran who has available entitlement.
? The loan must be for an eligible property.
? The veteran must occupy the property as a home within a reasonable period of time after closing the loan.
? The veteran must be a satisfactory credit risk. The income of the veteran and spouse, if any, must be stable and sufficient to meet the mortgage payments, cover the costs of owning a home and other obligations and expenses.
What can you use a VA loan for?
? Purchase a home, condominium in a VA?approved project or cooperative.
? Purchase and improve a home.
? Refinance an existing home loan (up to 90 percent of the value) or refinance an existing VA loan for a lower interest rate.
? Buy a manufactured home and/or lot.
? Build a home.
? Improve a home by installing energy?related features such as solar or heating/cooling systems, water heaters, insulation or other energy efficient improvements.
How is the loan application process different?
Aside from securing a Certificate of Eligibility and the appraiser is assigned by the VA, the application process is the same as other mortgage loans. Your buyer gets the loan from a private lender and the VA stands behind the loan.
Four easy steps to obtain a VA loan
1. The veteran must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). To get a Certificate of Eligibility, visit online at www.ebenefits.va.gov or call the VA Help Desk at 1?800?983?0937.
2. Choose a home to buy and sign a purchase agreement.
3. Apply to a mortgage lender for the loan.
4. Order an appraisal from the VA. (Usually done by the lender.) While the appraisal is being done, the lender can gather credit and income information. If the lender is authorized by the VA to process loans on the automatic basis, the loan can be approved and closed upon receipt of the appraised value determination without waiting for a VA review of the credit application.
Want to learn more about VA loans?
For additional information or to obtain forms please visit: http://www.homeloans.va.gov/. Or call: 1?800?827?1000.
Purchasing a home can be the most rewarding financial transaction of your life. However, one aspect of the home buying process that’s often overlooked is the impact your credit score has on the interest rate you’ll pay on your mortgage loan. A lower credit score will require you to pay thousands of extra dollars over the course of the loan; and a good credit score will save you thousands.
How to improve your credit score
There are three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion and each agency has its own line of credit scores and each score has its own proprietary formula. Most of the credit scores are based on the following factors:
Late payments will lower your score. The more recent the late payment and the more it is late, the more of a negative impact on your score. There is nothing better at improving a credit score than making on?time payments consistently month after month. One way to ensure this happens is to set up automatic withdrawals on your accounts to assure payment is made automatically on or before the due date.
Owing too much will lower your score, especially if you’re approaching your total credit limit. Try to reduce this percentage as much as possible by paying down high balances.
Length of credit history
In general, a longer credit history is better. As time goes on, negative items from years past will have time to improve or will be weighted less and good payment patterns month after month will help increase your credit score. In addition, most negative items will fall off the credit reports when they are more than 7 years from the date of first delinquency.
Matters of public record such as bankruptcies, judgments and collection items will significantly lower your credit score. There are no “good” public records recorded on credit reports so these items are always negative and have more impact than any other factor. Judgments and collection accounts should be paid in full and satisfied if possible. Over time they will have less impact, but only time can help in this case.
Whenever someone else gets your credit report ?? a lender, landlord, or insurer, for example ?? an inquiry is recorded on your credit report. A large number of recent inquiries may lower your score. The impact on the credit score is typically 5?10 points, but this depends on how many inquiries are made within a given time frame. Avoid offers at retailers, for example 20% off or a free umbrella for signing up for a new store credit card.
New accounts opened
Opening multiple new accounts in a short period of time may lower your score. In addition to the inquiry that is done to determine if you are eligible for new credit, a new account can also have a negative impact on a credit score.
Make payments prior to statement date
One common misconception is that if you pay your account in full every month you are not “carrying a balance.” This may be true from the standpoint of interest accruing on the account. By paying the account off each month it typically avoids interest from accruing by the bank or credit card company. It is also true that after the payment is made that the account is then a zero balance. However, the issuer of the card issues a credit card statement on a given day, the “statement date.” Then payment is required to be made by the due date. See example below:
January Charges: $4,000
Limit on Credit Card: $10,000
Statement Date: 2/1/2012
Due Date: 2/9/2012
If you pay this account in full after the statement date and before the due date then the new balance on credit card is $0. However, the balance reported to the credit reporting agencies is $4,000 and therefore a credit utilization rate of 40% on this credit card. If you pay $4,000 on 1/31/2012 (just days earlier), then the statement will record a zero balance with no money due. In this case the balance will report to the credit reporting agencies as a zero balance and the credit utilization rate is now 0%. Another option would be to make a mid?month payment which would reduce the balance at the time of the statement closing. If you spend $4,000 a month on credit cards every month and pay it off immediately you would have a perpetual 40% utilization rate, even though you immediately pay the account to zero every month. By making the same payment a week earlier or making a partial payment in between statement cycles you can reduce the utilization rate and help to increase your credit score.
There are multiple reasons why it’s a great time to buy a home: Interest rates are at a record low, home prices are attractive and, accordingly, overall affordability is at an all?time high. But there are other advantages that first?time homebuyers often overlook: the tax benefits of home ownership. These benefits can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year. The biggest tax breaks come from mortgage interest, home equity interest, property taxes and points:
For most homeowners, a large percentage of their monthly mortgage payment goes toward interest. All this interest is deductible, unless your mortgage loan is more than $1 million. For mortgages that exceed $1 million, the Internal Revenue Service will limit your interest deduction. Interest tax deductions don’t end with your first mortgage. If you pull out extra cash through refinancing, or if you secure a home equity loan that interest is also deductible. Generally, equity debts of $100,000 or less are fully deductible. In addition, if you purchase a vacation home, that mortgage interest is fully deductible. Plus, the vacation property doesn’t have to be strictly a house. It can be a boat or RV, as long as it has cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. You can even rent out your second property for part of the year and still take full advantage of the mortgage interest deduction as long as you also spend some time there.
Another major tax deduction is property taxes. Most monthly mortgage payments include property taxes, which are placed into an escrow account for payment twice a year. As the homeowner, these taxes can be deducted on your tax return every year. If it’s your first tax year in the house, review the settlement statement you got at closing to find the tax payment information. When the property was transferred from the seller to you, the year’s tax payments were divided so that each of you paid the taxes for that portion of the tax year during which you owned the home. Your share of these taxes is fully deductible.
If you paid points to get a better rate on your mortgage loan, the cost of these points is also deductible. The IRS lets you deduct points in the year you paid them if the loan is to purchase or build your primary home and the points were within the usual range. A homeowner who pays points on a refinanced loan is also eligible for this tax break, but in most cases the points must be deducted over the life of the loan. But if the refinancing frees up cash that you use to improve your house, you can fully deduct points on that money in the year you paid the points. The same rule applies to home equity loans or lines of credit. When the loan money is used for work on the house securing the loan, the points are deductible in the year the loan is taken out. Points paid on a loan secured by a second home or vacation residence, regardless of how the cash is used, must be amortized over the life of the loan.
When you Sell
When you decide to move up to a bigger home, you’ll be able to avoid some taxes on the profit you make. Years ago, a homeowner had to use the sale proceeds to buy another house. But in 1997, the law was changed so that up to $250,000 in sales gain ($500,000 for married joint filers) is tax?free as long as you owned the property for two years. If you sell before meeting the ownership and residency requirements, you owe tax on any profit. The IRS provides some tax relief if the sale is due to a change in your health, employment or unforeseen circumstances. A partial exclusion can be claimed if the sale was prompted by residential damage from a natural or man?made disaster or the property was “involuntarily converted,” for example, taken by a local government under the eminent domain law. Second home sales can provide some tax benefits, but not as much as they did in the past, as a result of a law that took effect in 2008. Previously, you could move into your vacation property, live in the home as your primary residence for two years and then sell and pocket up to $250,000 or $500,000 profit tax?free. Now, you’ll owe tax on part of the sale money based on how long the house was used as a second residence.
Consult a Qualified Tax Advisor
Remember, these are only general guidelines, to help get you started. To take full advantage of the tax advantages of owning a home, consult a qualified tax advisor.
DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | MONDAY, AUGUST 13, 2012
“It’s hard to argue against buying a house now, assuming you can get a loan,” writes John Waggoner, a columnist with USA Today. Sure, Waggoner says that getting a credit check for approval of a mortgage can be a “only slightly less intrusive than a CIA background check,” but for those who are able to qualify, a lot of analysts say that now can be a good time to purchase a home.
1. The price is right. The median single-family home price hit its lowest in more than a decade when it reached $154,600 in January, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. That was the lowest since October 2001. During the height of the housing market in July 2006, the median home price for a single-family home was $230,900.
2. It’s cheaper to buy than rent. In nearly every major metro market, it is cheaper to buy a home than rent. Rents have been on the rise the last few years and are predicted to continue to rise. Meanwhile, home affordability is at record highs, which means that buying a home is more within reach to the median income family.
3. Inventories of for-sale homes are shrinking. Ned Davis Research estimates that excess inventories of homes to be eliminated by the end of next year. “When excess supply dries up, people start building more new houses, which has the virtuous effect of reducing the unemployment rate and increasing the economy generally,” according to the USA Today article.
4. Mortgage rates are at record lows. Mortgage rates have hovered near record lows for weeks, which has helped pushing housing affordability higher. For example, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which is the most popular among home buyers, is 3.59 percent, according to Freddie Mac—just above its record low set on July 26 of 3.49 percent average. “It’s conceivable that at some point in the next 30 years, your interest rate would be less than the rate of inflation,” writes Waggoner for USA Today.
Source: “If You Can Pull it Off, a House is a Smart Investment,” USA Today (Aug. 9, 2012)
As the media centers on this week’s Supreme Court decision on the health care law, builders and the residential construction industry continue to wrestle with false rumors circulating the Internet that the new 3.8% Medicare tax on so-called unearned income set to take effect in 2013 is a straight tax on the sale of a home.
This is not the case.
The tax increase on capital income — such as capital gain and rents — will affect some real estate investments. However, it should have a negligible impact on sellers of principal residences.
The 3.8% Medicare tax will affect high-income taxpayers who report taxable income due to capital gains and other non-wage income. It will not affect income that is currently tax-exempt, including most capital gain due to the sale of a principal residence (due to the $250,000/$500,000 gain exclusion rules). Taxpayers with less than $250,000 in income will not see any increase in tax.
At BOLD you are always working with one of the owners of the company throughout the entire building process. And while we schedule regular hours in our model home, there are times we may need to slip out for a short period to meet a customer on their jobsite. To be assured of not missing us it is best if you contact Mike or James before hand to make an appointment. We are available days, evenings and weekends for your convenience.
Mike J. Kegley
M 859-379-9280 (also text messaging)
M 859-393-2900 (also text messaging)
Itâ€™s the weekend and you have a whole list of household chores to do. Oh, we know youâ€™d rather be golfing or playing tennis or watching TV, but keeping your home in good shape is important. Your home may be the biggest investment you will ever make. Taking good care of it with regular maintenance is necessary to maintain its value and ensure it will provide a comfortable, safe shelter for you and your family for a long time.
Here is a home maintenance quiz that will test your maintenance knowledge. While this quiz does not address every home maintenance project, it does provide helpful tips and reminders for chores you may have overlooked.
1. How often do forced-air furnace filters need to be changed?
At least every three months during the heating season.
2. What part of the faucet usually needs to be replaced when you have a water leak?
3. Should you run hot or cold water through your garbage disposal?
4. How often should the moving parts of garage doors be oiled?
Every three months.
5. What tools can you use to unclog your drains?
A plunger and a plumberâ€™s snake.
6. What tool can be used to unclog a toilet?
Coil spring-steel auger.
7. What faucet part needs to be cleaned every three to four months?
Aeratorâ€”the screen inside the end of the faucet.
8. What can you use for traction on icy sidewalks, steps and driveways?
Cat litter or sandâ€”never use salt because it damages the pavement.
9. Where should the fire in your fireplace be built?
On the andirons or grate, never on the fireplace floor.
10. What will prevent soot and add color to the fire in your fireplace?
Throw in a handful of salt.
11. Where should your firewood be stored?
Outside, away from your house and not directly on the ground.
12. What helps keep unpainted concrete floors easy to keep clean?
13. What should you use to clean unpainted concrete floors?
A solution of 4 to 6 tablespoons of washing soda in a gallon of hot water. Mix scouring powder to the solution for tough jobs.
14. When can you clean hardwood floors with water?
When the floors have a polyurethane finish.
15. Do hardwood floors need to be waxed?
Hardwood floors that do not have a polyurethane finish probably will need to be waxed periodically. Use liquid or paste â€œspiritâ€ wax.
16. What is the best polish for vinyl floors?
Water emulsion wax.
17. When is basement condensation at its maximum?
In new homes because gallons of water went into the concrete of basement walls.
18. Why should noisy water pipes be fixed promptly?
The condition that causes noisy pipes may be accompanied by vibration that can cause fittings to loosen and leak.
19. Why should frozen pipes be thawed slowly?
Frozen pipes should be thawed slowly to prevent the formation of steam, which could cause the pipe to burst.
20. How often should your roof be inspected?
A qualified roofer should inspect your roof every three years.
21. What should be regularly checked on your security system?
The alarms and circuit breakers should be checked to make sure they are in working order and the sensors should be inspected one by one.
22. To ensure your safety, what household equipment uses batteries that must be checked regularly to make sure they are operable?
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
23. What do you use to fill nail holes and cracks in plaster walls and gypsum wallboard?
24. What is the white powdery substance that develops on masonry walls?
Efflorescence sometimes appears on masonry walls. It is crystallized soluble salts that can be removed by scrubbing with water and a stiff brush.
25. At what temperature should your water heater be set?
120 degrees Fahrenheit
26. How often do skylights need to be inspected?
Skylights should be inspected each time your roof is inspected so leaks donâ€™t develop from cracks and interruptions around its seals, caulking and flashings.
27. What is a simple solution you can use to wash extremely dirty exterior windows?
A solution of equal parts vinegar and water or 3 tablespoons of denatured alcohol per quart of warm water. Use a piece of crumpled newspaper to wash the glass to avoid lint left behind by paper towels.
28. What can you use to help a window slide easily?
Rub the channel with a piece of paraffin.
29. What should you look for when you inspect your siding yearly?
Determine if wood-sided homes need to be repainted; check to see if the caulking around the windows and doors has split and cracked, and replace the caulk; clean the mildew; trim shrubbery away so it does not touch the siding.