4 tips to moving with pets

I mentioned before we moved several times in a short period of time. Our two cats moved with us. It was never easy on us, but it was even harder on them – cats are creatures of habits. Dogs also do not take well to long trip and commotion of the move. Here are four tips we tested over the years, hopefully they will help you – and your pet.

  1. Pack and clean one room in old home first, for example spare bedroom. Keep you pets, in their crates, with favorite toy, in this room. This way they will be in relative quiet. Other options, for more anxious pets, is to have them stay with a friend or even board your pet for a packing day.
  2. Pack a set of basic pet supplies: pet food, favorite bowl, water bowl or fountain, litter box and litter for cats, leash for dogs, couple of favorite toys. Keep it handy with you in your car, make it easy to reach the stash when you arrive on site so you can unpack and set up spot for your pet in your new home.
  3. It goes without saying, but have your pets travel with you in the car. I strongly recommend having any pet in crate, to avoid distractions while driving. Additionally, have the crate facing you and so your pet is able to listen conversation or just be aware of your presence during the trip. Some pets might prefer to have crate covered with blanket. Remember about securing the crate with seat belts.
  4. When in new location, set your pet up in one quiet room while you unpack. Keep it there for a day or two, and get accustomed to a new place. I suggest setting up your bedroom, if your pet is allowed to sleep with you, then your presence at night will also help ease them.

Do you have any of you tested any tips or tricks to make it easier for your pets to get through move? Share them in comments below.


Tax benefits of owning your home

Tax benefits of owning your home

Oceans of paper have been filled with dissertations whether it is more beneficial to rent vs. own your home. You can read our own take on it here… One thing that very few sources mention are potential tax benefits* of owning your home. In some cases they can tip the scale substantially towards the ownership side.

How can owning a house save you money?

1. Mortgage interest

Chances are that you have a mortgage on your house. And at the end of each year you’re receiving a form from your financial institution detailing how much interest you’ve paid over the course of the year. Save that form. Interest paid on mortgage used to finance your primary residence is tax deductible. But you probably knew that. Mortgage interest deduction is one of the most common ones claimed by tax payers.

2. Property tax deduction

You may deduct up to $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately) for a combination of property taxes and either state and local income taxes or sales taxes.

You might be able to deduct property and real estate taxes you pay on your:

  • Primary home
  • Co-op apartment
  • Vacation homes
  • Land

3. Home office deduction

Do you run small business out of your home? Is that space used exclusively for business? If yes the IRS allows you to deduct utilities, real estate taxes, repairs, maintenance and other related expenses. The details of this deduction are too complex to list it in this post, but the simplest way is to claim standard deduction of $5 per square foot (up to $1,500) of the space dedicated as office use.

4. Energy efficiency updates and credits

As a homeowners can claim a federal tax credit for making certain improvements to their homes or installing appliances that are designed to boost energy efficiency. Solar, wind, geothermal, and fuel cell technology are all eligible for the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit.

Disclaimer: we are Realtors, not tax attorneys or CPA, so the above should be treated as anecdotal. Please consult with your tax preparer before you claim any of the credits.

Tips around the house

Spring around the house

First warm days of season are upon us, and with this, it feels good just going outside after long months of cabin fever (particularly if you live up North). It is a good time to take a walk around your house, backyard, and garden, and check on everything after the winter season. Even if you live in an apartment, there are things you can do, so please continue reading our tips collected from around the Internet.

On your balcony or deck

  • Clean patio furniture. Soapy water and soft brush or sponge will do the trick for most types of materials.
  • Wash the pillows and outdoor rugs. Check the manufacturer’s instruction if fabrics can be washed in the washing machine.
  • Give your grill thorough scrub. Long-handled stiff-wire brush works on all types of grates.
  • Refill propane tank for grill to be ready for first grilling of the season (we already started ours!)
  • Check the deck surface: does it need any repairs? Maybe fresh coat of paint is in order this year?
  • Consider planting containers with ornamental plants, maybe even vegetables or herbs. Particularly if you do not have a big yard or live in condo, few containers will add life to your outdoor space.

Around the outside of your house

  • Wash your windows, from outside and inside. You will see so much more light coming in. My recently discovered quick tip – glass cleaner and squeegee.
  • Replace any used exterior light bulbs, on house walls, in the walkways, on the deck.
  • Check and clean gutters and spouts, make repairs if needed.
  • Hose down or power wash home exterior.
  • Check your roof for any obvious problems.
  • Check your fence if you have one: does it need any repairs? Is it in need of fresh coat of paint?

Lawn and backyard

  • Clean your lawn: brush back all remaining fall leaves and remove fallen branches. Pick up litter and any pet waste.
  • Identify bold spots in your lawn. Mix seeds with fresh soil and fertilizer and seed fresh grass. Remember to keep it moist until it starts growing!
  • Prune all shrubs and trees – it will encourage new growth
  • Check water hoses for cracks and leaks. Make any needed repairs – or buy new parts.

In the garden (or container garden)

  • Remove winter layer of mulch if you had any placed to cover plants from freezing
  • Add new layer of mulch around trees and shrubs
  • Cut majority of stalks of ornamental grasses to have them come back fresh
  • Pull any dead annuals. Consider replacing them new ones?
  • Remove dead growth of perennials, they will come back fresh and strong.
  • Take an inventory of plants you already have – and start planing what you want to add when time comes. Make shopping list of seeds or plants.
  • Build new vegetable beds if you need more/new ones. They will be ready when you need them!
  • Now it is also good time to seed cold-loving vegetables, for example salad greens or radishes. You will be able to enjoy them in no time.

Rent or buy?

This is probably one of the most often asked questions and at the same time one that almost never has a clear cut answer. Our lives differ and what makes it even harder to answer this question is that everyone looks at life through their past experiences and biases.

When our clients or prospects ask us this question here is what we say…

Do you enjoy making your house your home?

Owning a house comes with great freedom of making it your own. While renting, the most you can ask for is probably paint change, but don’t expect to be presented with choice other than white, gray or beige. No landlord will agree to blue, green, red or any other non bland, neutral color, for fear of not being able to rent it again when you leave. Would you like to plant a raised bed garden? Install a play set with slide for your kid? You can forget about it when you rent.

Nobody will kick you out or increase your rent!

Owning a house means that your life is protected. You won’t be surprised by landlord changes, sudden rent increases or outright refusal to renew. No maintenance visits either. How would you feel if somebody regularly ‘inspected’ all your closets or bedrooms?

Uncle Sam prefers home owners

Yes, it is rare that uncle Sam is favoring one group over the other. Yet when it comes to owning the house the government clearly prefers that you own your home. To incentivize you to buy they allow you to deduct interest you pay on your mortgage from your taxes (as always, we are not tax professionals so please ask your tax preparer for details).

Your home can be your retirement fund or savings account

We all know how hard it is to save for the future. There is always this or that expense that gets in the way of regular contributions into your savings account. How about your house? Every single one of your monthly mortgage payments contains growing principal portion. Your equity is growing every month. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate this and am relived that my net worth is constantly growing.

And it brings interest!

Real estate traditionally is the safest way to conservatively grow your wealth. Properties appreciate on average between 5 and 10% every year. Not only does your equity grow because you make monthly contributions. It also brings interest!

One more thing – monthly cost in most cases will be lower

When you rent you not only have to pay for somebody else’s mortgage payment on the house. They also need to pay their property manager, accountant, build some nice maintenance reserves, pay business insurance and in the end, bring a profit. This all usually adds up to about 15% premium over what you would pay as an owner on the same property.

Is it all roses then, right?

Of course not. Sometimes it makes sense to rent. Here are some arguments for renting:

Are you planning to live in the place for at least 4-5 years?

As fun and rewarding as owning a house is, selling it comes with a cost. In addition to our commission you will have to credit the Buyer with prorated property taxes, in some states provide home warranty and title insurance and probably pay for some maintenance, upgrades or repairs requested by the future owners. On average you have to budget between 8 and 10% of your selling price as your cost of selling. Considering that in the beginning your monthly payments cover mostly interest it pays to wait few years before selling to build equity and let the house appreciate. If you plan for short stay, better rent.

Can you do small fixes on your own?

I’m not talking remodeling your kitchen or replacing roof, those are best to be left to professionals. Yet there are many small things (like replacing light bulbs, smoke detectors, cleaning dryer vent or cleaning siding and windows that are normally handled by the owner when you rent). All those are typically included in rent (see the mention of the own maintenance reserves) but if you can do them on your own in your house it will cost you only pennies on the dollar and will greatly lower your cost of ownership. On the other hand if you can’t tell which side of the screwdriver is the business end – better consider renting. The owner will have properly trained crew on call that will take care of those issues efficiently and quickly.

Rent vs. Own. There is no right answer. Only you can make that decision. No matter which way do you choose to go, we’re here to help. Let us know if you have any additional questions or comments, we’ll be happy to help!