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House tax bill contains gifts for homeowners – will it pass by end of year?

December is mega-tax-bill time on Capitol Hill, when legislation loaded with gifts and goodies for special-interest constituents moves ahead for action before the end of the year. House Republicans have unveiled their 2018 version — nearly 300 pages worth — and it has goodies galore: Write-offs and tax-credit deals for racehorse owners, “motor sports entertainment complexes,” TV and film producers, mine-rescue team trainers, two-wheeled electric vehicles, Indian coal facilities, economic development in American Samoa and a bunch of others. And yes, homeowners and builders are on the gift list as well:

• Did you pay mortgage-insurance premiums this year on a conventional home loan, a Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-backed mortgage or a Veterans (VA) loan? Congratulations! You’re a potential beneficiary if the bill passes.

• Did you install energy-conserving improvements in your house this year, such as high-performance windows, doors, roofing or skylights? Did you buy an energy-efficient furnace, hot-water heater or air conditioner? The new tax bill has a little something for you. Ditto if you built an energy-efficient new house.

• Were you underwater on your mortgage, forced to do a short sale, foreclosed upon or negotiated a loan workout agreement this year in which the lender forgave the balance owed? Good news. You’re covered by the bill — the IRS will not tax the forgiven balance of your debt as ordinary income if the bill passes and this tax-code provision is extended.

• Were you a victim of one the country’s recent natural disasters, such as hurricanes Florence or Michael, the Camp and Woolsey wildfires or the Kilauea volcanic eruption? The bill offers tax relief to assist your recovery.

The bill clearly has valuable provisions for certain groups of homeowners. But it also has fundamental problems. Start with the basics: Can it pass? One of the risks of sponsoring tax proposals late in a congressional session — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, only introduced it Nov. 26 — is that they can get squished in the last-minute crush of higher-profile legislation, such as this year’s federal-budget resolution. If issues like funding a southern border wall are not solved, there could be a government shutdown. Passing a tax bill in the middle of this brewing partisan storm is a serious challenge.

read more at: https://www.dailyherald.com/entlife/20181207/house-tax-bill-contains-early-holiday-gifts-for-homeowners

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7 mistakes homeowners make when renovating older properties

Digging into your home’s past can be fun, but it can also help you make aesthetic decisions and avoid costly mistakes. Architect Anik Pearson recalls a New York client who wanted to install a pool in his basement. She referred to historical maps of Manhattan that showed where all the waterways, wetlands and hills existed, and discovered a river underneath the townhouse. “They poked a hole in the basement and sure enough, there was running water. The river was still there.”

In this age of home renovation shows and YouTube tutorials, many homeowners consider bypassing a professional for what they think are easy cosmetic alterations. But mistakes can cost them more than an architect’s fee. A common example is when homeowners try restoring curb appeal with quick-and-dirty fixes, such as power-washing a stain or painting over an ugly house colour.

Stripping or removing paint is especially an area to exercise caution: Although in newer homes it’s safer because modern paints don’t contain harmful substances such as lead, old paints can contain such substances. But simply applying a new coat shouldn’t be a problem for DIYers.

read more at: https://www.domain.com.au/living/seven-mistakes-homeowners-make-when-renovating-older-properties-781230/?utm_campaign=featured-masthead&utm_source=smh&utm_medium=link

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San Diego: Study says you need to make $131k a year to afford a home

San Diego was one of the least-affordable U.S. metro areas for buying a home in the second quarter, said a recently-released study from mortgage website HSH.

Potential buyers needed to make $130,986 a year to afford the median-priced single-family house.

Only two other metro areas were less affordable — San Jose and San Francisco — said the study, which crunched numbers for 50 regions across the United States.

HSH determined rankings by looking at quarterly home price data, local property taxes, homeowner insurance costs and income needed to qualify for a loan. It also assumed that prospective homebuyers made a 20 percent down payment.

The most affordable metropolitan area was Pittsburgh where the required annual salary to afford a median-priced home was $38,253. Other affordable cities for homebuyers were Cleveland ($39,253), Oklahoma City ($40,780).

Keith Gumbinger, HSH.com’s vice president, said rising mortgage rates are only a small part of the difficulty for potential buyers.

“Unfortunately, even if rates don’t go up very much,” he said, “part of the issue we run into is that home prices are rising so quickly.”

San Diego has been locked at the No.3 spot since HSH expanded the study to 50 metros three years ago. Los Angeles was No.4, which usually is seen as less affordable than America’s Finest City — but Gumbinger said the larger pool of homes in Los Angeles reduced the median cost in comparison to San Diego.

read more at: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/real-estate/sd-fi-hsh-study-20180820-story.html

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