Spring Cleaning Checklist: Bathroom Bacteria Busters

spring cleaning checklist

Open the windows! Let in the fresh air! Spring has sprung!

It is time for picnics, long walks, froliking outdoors, and spring cleaning. In order to help you organize, we’ve made a series of printable spring cleaning checklists. To save the best for last we are starting with the least dreaded room to clean – the bathroom.

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Stay Put and Remodel — or Move?

[Article courtesy of REALTOR MAG, JANUARY 2014 | BY BARBARA BALLINGER]

Elk Grove Real Estate, Sacramento Real Estate: To Stay or Not To Stay

Elk Grove Real Estate, Sacramento Real Estate: To Stay or Not To Stay

Here are seven strategies to help you decide whether to list your home or make renovations that will help make your current house meet your needs.

A New Year ushers in new resolutions, which often includes changes on the home front, but deciding what to do with it can be tough for home owners, financially and emotionally.

As the real estate market rebounds and buyers increase in number, make a well-informed decision on the direction you should take with your home. You no longer need to be torn between selling in order to upgrade and remodeling your current space to add value and meet your needs.

Here are seven key steps to help you arrive at the best solution:

1. What bothers you most about your home, such as the traffic pattern, lack of a certain room, or absence of light?

Analyze how you use your house and determine what features are missing that you want. Changes can often be made within an existing footprint, even without adding square footage. Walls can be taken down, doors removed or changed, and windows enlarged. Home owners who have been in their house for years are often only using certain rooms because of a pattern they established early on.

“Many fail to use 30 to 40 percent of their space,” says contractor Randy Tapper of RHT Design and Construction in Deerfield, Ill. He tries to guide clients toward changing your layout, so you use all spaces, before he suggests adding. Architect Duo Dickinson, author of Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want (Taunton Press, 2011) concurs, and says removing walls and adding openings rather than increasing the home’s footprint can tackle a great percentage of challenges.

2. Study how your house is sited.

Analyze the land your house sits on — both the topography and condition — as well as how it’s oriented toward views. If the site always leaks ground water, has absolutely no trees (or terrible ones), or includes hideous views, then remodeling likely won’t fix your issues, Dickinson says, and selling becomes a more viable option.

3. What are your thoughts about your neighborhood?

If you’re very attached to your neighborhood, including the area’s retail, schools, and, perhaps, proximity to major thoroughfares, it may be worthwhile for you to “build your way out of your home or site’s challenges — and stay put,” says Dickinson.

Sometimes, pleasant memories, such as where you raised your children or watched a daughter marry in the backyard, may outweigh the option of moving.

4. Factor in your time frame and family needs.

If you plan to be in your house a long time — at least five to 10 years — making significant changes, such as adding rooms, building a sunroom, or finishing a basement, may provide a worthwhile payback and incentive. If, however, you’re empty nesters and ready to downsize, then remodeling may not be the most prudent financial decision. Here’s where a good financial planner can help you assess your home’s value in relationship to the rest of your assets and needs; a mortgage lender also should be tapped to discuss the costs of a new mortgage, if you need one.

But, exceptions abound, even for empty nesters. Some may decide to stay put. If your children and grandchildren visit regularly, you may decide that remodeling, or even adding on, will be the magic bullet for them to enjoy your home for years into the future.

5. Consult contractors, designers, architects, or structural engineers, and get multiple bids, for a realistic estimate of what changes might cost.

It’s worth paying professionals for an hour of your time; some will even provide it gratis, says Dickinson. These professionals can look at a home owners’ current house, listen to what you want, appraise its condition –—including what an untrained eye may not see — and estimate costs of new work.

In addition, if the house was built more than 30 years ago and hasn’t been updated, it may require new wiring or plumbing, a new HVAC system or roof, and better insulation. A new survey may also be worthwhile depending on what changes might take place, especially if it’s dated.

6. Compare the appraisal and remodeling costs with other neighborhood homes for future resale.

Even though home owners should base decisions in large measure on enjoyment and not wholly on resale value, it’s smart to have an idea of how changes will affect the house compared with others nearby, says real estate attorney and Brooklyn Law School Professor David Reiss.

It’s never smart to overbuild for an area. The type of improvement can also affect the value. Remodeling changes may add to the house’s worth without changing real estate taxes, while an addition will probably cause an uptick in taxes.

Recent comps for homes of a similar size and quality and in a similar area will help you make that assessment, says Dickinson.

7. Seeing is believing: Besides comps, go and see what’s available in your price range in neighborhoods you like.

A new house may offer a better layout, the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, an updated kitchen, or a nice yard. But remember that even the home you buy may need some remodeling tweaks, like new paint, carpet, or an overhaul of an outdated master bathroom. Factor in the cost and time of these changes as you weigh your final decision.

Here, too, it might prove worthwhile to bring in a contractor or architect to estimate costs of any big changes such as new insulation, removing some walls, or finishing the basement.

Dara Shlifka and her husband Aric went through these paces when they decided they needed additional space for a home office in their 1968, Colonial-style, 2,400-square-foot suburban Chicago home. Initially, they were convinced they’d move, since remodeling and bids for additions came in sky-high — $250,000 and above. They house-hunted in a broad price range, from $400,000 up to $800,000, Dara says. But before we found a house, we asked one more contractor for ideas. He suggested converting our living room to an office and building a 600-square-foot addition with a bigger kitchen and a new family room, powder room, and laundry and mud rooms, and his bid came in at only $120,000, which convinced them to stay. “We’re almost done, but already I feel I’m living in a different house,” she says.

Bottom line: Make this big decision carefully based on all of the facts. In the end, you’ll be happier.

UPDATE: Mortgage Debt Cancellation Tax Relief

National Association of REALTORs

National Association of REALTORs

NAR Issue Brief
Mortgage Debt Cancellation Tax Relief

Update on the current status of the mortgage debt cancellation tax relief provision that expired at the end of 2013. As soon as the last one-year extension was passed on New Years’ Day 2013, NAR began working on another extension of this critical tax provision. With NAR’s encouragement, champions of this provision introduced bi-partisan bills in both the House and Senate (H.R. 2994/S. 1187), to extend the provision for one or two years. Unfortunately, the current prospect of these bills being enacted in the short term is not particularly high. We are facing four big hurdles.

1. The Chairmen of both of Congress’s tax committees (Senate Finance and House Ways and Means) have committed to passing comprehensive tax reform legislation before the end of 2014. As part of reform, they have both indicated that they plan to go through the long list of expiring items, including mortgage debt cancellation, and cull those that are not worthy of permanence and make all the “worthy” ones a permanent part of the tax law. However, tax reform is unlikely to be completed in the coming months. If Congress were to extend the expiring provisions now, it might appear that they were giving up on tax reform. This is not a signal they wish to send.

2. There are over 50 such expiring tax provisions (often referred to as “extenders”). Congress rarely passes single tax provisions by themselves. The rules in both the House (and especially the Senate) could allow for added amendments that would turn a simple bill with wide support into a politically divisive bill.

3. The extension of the tax relief “costs” money to the Treasury. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that a one-year extension of the mortgage debt cancellation relief would cost $3.7 billion. Some Members of Congress will insist that amount be offset by raising taxes elsewhere or cuts in spending – an ongoing debate in Congress.

4. The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as the next United States Ambassador to China. His departure from the Senate will turn the chairmanship over to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. As with any change in committee leadership, there will be an adjustment period.

In sum, NAR tried to have the extension passed by year-end but it was not possible. Because of the factors listed above, NAR has so far decided not to issue Member-wide Call for Action at this time, but has instead focused on working with Congressional leadership and the bill sponsors to find additional support for moving this legislation now that Congress has returned to Washington. Our lobbyists are in daily meetings with Members of Congress, pressing for an extension and providing the most up to date data on short sales and foreclosures to continue to highlight this as a top priority.

What can you do? First, you can contact your Representative and Senators to urge them to act on these bills. If you are in distressed situation, urge them to do so as well. The more Members hear from constituents, the better.

NAR cautions REALTORS® against giving clients tax advice, as every situation is different, but at this point our best estimate is that Congress will pass some extension of this law, probably late in 2014, and make it retroactive. There is precedent for Congress doing this, but no guarantee.

NAR cautions REALTORS® against giving clients tax advice, as every situation is different, but at this point our best estimate is that Congress will pass some extension of this law in 2014 and make it retroactive. There is precedent for Congress doing this, but no guarantee.

Elk Grove Residents Urged to Reduce Water Usage by 20 Percent

Real Estate in Elk Grove, Morse Park

Real Estate in Elk Grove, Morse Park

The City of Elk Grove is urging residents to voluntarily cut back water 
consumption by 20 percent, joining numerous local agencies in a regional water conservation 
effort.   
  
Last night, the Elk Grove City Council unanimously adopted a resolution establishing support for 
water conservation and conservation education.   
  
“The state of California is facing a very critical situation, and the City of Elk Grove will do its part 
to temper water usage and urge residents to conserve,” said Mayor Gary Davis.  “Elk Grove is 
committed to fostering an environment where the city, residents and business owners unite to 
demonstrate good stewardship of our most precious resources.  The City of Elk Grove is 
committed to educating the community about the critical importance of water conservation 
during this unprecedented drought.”   
  
The 20 percent reduction can be achieved through increased water conservation at City 
facilities, enhanced public information in collaboration with local agencies, and increased 
enforcement of the City’s water conservation ordinances.  Residents can help achieve the 20 
percent savings by making small changes in everyday household routines.  Household water 
conservation tips and watering schedules are available on the Elk Grove Water District and 
Sacramento County Water Agency websites.   
  
In 2013, Northern California had its third consecutive year of below average rainfall and driest 
year ever recorded.  This has resulted in record low water levels at critical water storage sites, 
including Folsom Lake.  The City of Elk Grove is not a water purveyor.   The Elk Grove Water 
District and Sacramento County Water Agency serve the Elk Grove area and have both passed 
voluntary conservation measures.   
  
For more information about water conservation, contact the Elk Grove Water District at 685‐
3556 or Sacramento County Water Agency at 874‐6851.

Bank of America Short Sale Update

Bank of America Help for Homeowners in Sacramento and Elk Groveac

Bank of America Help for Homeowners in Sacramento and Elk Groveac

Bank of America is making a series of changes affecting the way we service mortgage loans to align with the new mortgage servicing standards announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The servicing standards, which become effective January 2014, are an extension of our work to make customer interactions easier. Homeowners will be able to explore all loss mitigation options (including modification, short sale or deed in lieu) for which they may be eligible.

How will the changes benefit B of A customers and business partners?
Earlier single point of contact assignment: Homeowners who need assistance are encouraged to contact B of A early. Newly delinquent customers will continue to be proactively assigned a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM). The customer’s CRM will provide immediate support during the document collection process and will begin conversations about possible resolutions to their circumstances. Contact your Customer Relationship Manager directly or by calling 1.800.669.6650.

Streamlined financial document collection process: Customers who request assistance will now submit a single package that includes all documents required for all loss mitigation options (including modification, short sale and deed in lieu) for which they may be qualify. A letter will be mailed to customers to provide details on the required documents. Once received, the complete package serves as the basis for conducting an evaluation of all options that may be available. This will minimize the need to request additional documents.

Comprehensive evaluation process: As part of the new process, a short sale record will be automatically opened if the home retention evaluation indicates the customer does not meet eligibility requirements to retain the property. If you are interested in proceeding with the short sale evaluation, advise the short sale specialist to add the real estate professional of your choice to the file. To save time and avoid delays with the short sale evaluation, make sure that you have explored and been evaluated for all available home retention options prior to beginning the short sale process.

Improved communication: Significant improvements have been made to customer communications making it easier to understand what steps need to be taken, what is involved in the evaluation and how an appropriate solution is identified for you. Upon completion of the evaluation, B of A will provide homeowners with one notification that will list all options and programs for which you were evaluated along with the approval or denial decision.

The purpose of these enhanced standards is to provide customers more transparency in the evaluation process and help them pursue all options that may be available if they are having difficulty making their payments.

IRS and CA Franchise Tax Board clarify mortgage debt

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LOS ANGELES (Dec. 4) – The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ (C.A.R.) announced today it received a letter from the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), obtained by Board of Equalization (BOE) member George Runner, clarifying that California families who have lost their home in a short sale are not subject to state income tax liability on debt forgiveness “phantom income” they never received in a short sale.

Last month, in a letter to California Sen. Barbara Boxer, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognized that the debt written off in a short sale does not constitute recourse debt under California law, and thus does not create so-called “cancellation of debt” income to the underwater home seller for federal income tax purposes.  Following the IRS’s clarification, C.A.R. sought a similar ruling by the California FTB.  Now with the FTB’s clarification, underwater home sellers also are assured that they are not subject to state income tax liability, rescuing tens of thousands of distressed home sellers from California tax liability for debt written off by lenders in short sales.

“We are pleased with the recent clarifications issued by the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board, which protect distressed homeowners from debt relief income tax associated with a short sale in California,” said C.A.R. President Kevin Brown.  “We would like to thank Sen. Boxer and BOE member Runner for their leadership in obtaining this guidance from the IRS and FTB.  Distressed California homeowners can now avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy and can opt for a short sale instead, without incurring federal and state tax liability, even after the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 expires at the end of this year.”

Short Sale Debt Forgiveness is Back!

Debt Forgiveness Elk Grove Short Sales, Sacramento Short Sales

Debt Forgiveness Elk Grove Short Sales, Sacramento Short Sales

The California Association of REALTORS® announced yesterday it received a letter from the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), obtained by Board of Equalization (BOE) member George Runner, clarifying that California families who lost their home in a short sale are not subject to state income tax liability on debt forgiveness “phantom income” they never received in a short sale.

Last month, in a letter to California Senator Barbara Boxer, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognized that the debt written off in a short sale does not constitute recourse debt under California law, and thus does not create so called “cancellation of debt” income to the underwater home seller for federal income tax purposes. Following the IRS’s clarification, C.A.R. sought a similar ruling by the California FTB. Now with the FTB’s clarification, underwater home sellers are also assured that they are not subject to state income tax liability, rescuing tens of thousands distressed home sellers from California tax liability for debt written off by lenders in short sales.

“We are pleased with the recent clarifications issued by the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board, which protect distressed homeowners from debt relief income tax associated with a short sale in California,” said C.A.R. President Kevin Brown. “We would like to thank Senator Boxer and BOE member Runner for their leadership in obtaining this guidance from the IRS and FTB. Distressed California homeowners can now avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy and can opt for a short sale instead, without incurring federal and state tax liability, even after the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 expires at the end of the year.”

This is wonderful news for California families still struggling with an underwater home. We still recommend all REALTORS® encourage their clients to speak with a tax professional who can advise them on their specific situation. This information in no way should be taken as either legal or tax advice.

(Sacramento Association of REALTORS® Web Log, Caylyn Brown Thursday, December 5th, 2013)