How to Develop a Fire Escape Plan For Your Home

In light of the horrific fires that ravaged parts of California, it makes sense that all households should have a sound fire escape plan that can get all residents out of danger quickly and safely.

Once a fire escape plan has been drafted up, it should be practiced a few times and on a regular basis in order to make sure that everyone in the home knows exactly what to do in the event of an emergency.

It goes without saying that a fire escape plan is important, but how do you go about creating one? Follow this guide to help keep you and your family out of harm’s way.

Install Smoke Detectors

If your home doesn’t already have smoke detectors installed, now is the time to install them. Smoke detectors save lives. If you’re not alerted to smoke filling your home – particularly at night when everyone’s asleep – you lose valuable time that could have been used to escape.

If your home has smoke detectors installed, make sure to test them on a regular basis to make sure they’re working properly.

Place Ladders Near Second Story Windows

If possible, place escape ladders in or near windows to make escaping easier if accessing the main level is not possible. Make sure to go over the manufacturer’s instructions in great detail in order to use them safely.

Map Out Your Home’s Layout

Draw out a simple plan of your home’s layout, including all rooms, doorways, and windows. Be sure to include all floors, as well as the location of all smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Try your best to draw the map to scale to ensure greater accuracy.

Choose a Meeting Place

Whether it’s a tree, the end of the driveway, or a street light, establishing a meeting place is crucial to help ensure that all family members are aware of each other’s whereabouts. Knowing where everyone is and quickly locating each other will inform everyone whether everyone is safe or whether someone is still inside and needs help.

The location you choose for your meeting spot should be far enough from the house so everyone is out of danger of the fire, yet close enough so that everyone can get to each other as fast as possible.

Establish and Highlight All Possible Escape Exits and Routes

With your map in hand, identify all exits from your home, as well as the routes to take to get out of the home and arrive at your family’s meeting spot. Doorways are ideal escape routes and should be made primary escape routes, but windows should also be used if doorways are blocked from fire.

Keep Exits Clear of Obstacles

Make sure that each exit can be easily accessed and not blocked by any obstacles that could impede the ability to get out quickly.

Review the Escape Plan With Everyone on a Regular Basis

Once you’ve established your escape plan, be sure to go over it in great detail with all members of your family. From there, be sure to revisit the escape plan every so often so it is fresh on everyone’s minds.

Be sure that all children understand the escape routes, as they may need a little more coaching. Further, instruct children never to hide in the event of a fire, and instead to find an adult nearby or get out as quickly as possible to find the meeting place.

Come Up With a Plan For Those With Disabilities

If anyone in the home has a disability, be sure to make arrangements so they are able to get out quickly and safely.

Practice Escaping the House

Ideally, you should all practice escaping your home a few times. Doing so can make it easier for everyone to be prepared and act on instinct in the event of a real emergency.

Assign Specific Duties to Each Family Member

With the exception of young children, everyone in the home should have a certain assigned task in the event of a fire. For instance, tasks can include calling the fire department, gathering up the children, waking those who are still asleep, ensuring any seniors or those with mobility issues are safe, collecting all pets, and accessing the fire extinguisher for smaller fires.

The Bottom Line

Taking the time to establish a fire escape plan and practicing the drills can seem like a nuisance. But doing so can literally mean the difference between life and death. Considering how devastating the recent fires in California have been, it’s worth every second to come up with a plan and make sure everyone in the family is on board.

Should You Move From the City to the Suburbs?

City living comes with a certain level of excitement and convenience that you’d be hard-pressed to find outside of the downtown area. The bright lights, the close proximity to work and entertainment, and the vibrant community that usually characterizes urban living can’t be denied.

But sometimes the need for a little tranquility and space drives people to make a move from the city to the suburbs.

If you’re considering making a move, should you look for another unit in the city? Or is it time for a completely different change in scenery in the form of suburban living? Here are some things to consider before making your final decision.

Commute to Work

If you work in the city, then obviously the proximity from your home to your place of work will be a lot closer than it would be if you lived in the ‘burbs. Commuting is one of the more important factors to consider when moving.

Congestion and traffic can really extend the amount of time it takes to get to work if you’re coming from way outside the city, let alone the stress that comes along with commuting. And if there are no convenient and efficient public transportation options available, the commute can be even more daunting.

If you plan to keep your job in the city, you’ll want to seriously consider your commute. If you’re dedicated to moving out of the city, try to find a suburb that’s as close to the city as possible without compromising all the conveniences that come with suburban living.

Schools

If you’ve got school-aged children, then scoping out the school ratings in the area you plan to move to is important. You’ll want your kids to attend a school that’s safe, has a decent student body, and is rated well for academics. In fact, schools are one of the biggest driving factors for people with kids who are considering moving.

Even if you don’t have any kids, you might have some in the future. And even if children are not part of the plan, communities with highly-rated school districts tend to be valued higher compared to those with schools that are low on the list. If anything, choose an area with desirable schools simply to protect your investment.

Amenities

Urbanites tend to have a slew of amenities available to them at their fingertips. City centers are often filled with all the conveniences of daily life within a short distance from each other, which is one of the conveniences of living in the city.

Whether you need to pick up some groceries, want to hit up a yoga studio, or want to make grabbing your morning cup of joe from a local cafe much quicker, all of these amenities – and more – can usually be found within a short distance from each other in the city.

Generally speaking, amenities in the suburbs tend to be spread out a little more. That usually entails having to drive to do your groceries, meet up with friends, or go to the gym.

That said, there may be certain suburbs that take the urban lifestyle into consideration. City planners are increasingly trying to blend the conveniences of both suburban and city living in order to give residents the best of both worlds. If possible, try to find a suburb that has its own “downtown” that offers a myriad of amenities all within a short distance from one another.

Lifestyle

Perhaps the biggest difference between living in the city versus living in the suburbs is the lifestyle. Sure, the commute and the amenities are important considerations to make. But in addition to these, the lifestyle differences are worth noting.

Living in the city is often characterized by convenient and energetic. You can walk to amenities, places are typically open later than they are in the suburbs, and there are usually more options for entertainment. City life is usually more vibrant and exciting, offering a slew of opportunities, both for employment and entertainment. Further, the city is usually much more multicultural in nature.

But living in the suburbs has its own distinct lifestyle that may be more attractive to many buyers. Generally speaking, the suburbs offer a lot more space to enjoy. The neighborhoods are usually quieter without the constant noise of traffic, honking horns, and police sirens. The suburbs are usually considered safer, which is often why parents tend to move outside of the city. Further, the pollution is not as thick as it usually is downtown, giving residents fresher air to breathe in.

Depending on what you’re looking for in a lifestyle, this may sway your decision to make a move to the suburbs or stay put in the city.

Housing Types

City centers are usually characterized by condominiums, apartment buildings, and townhomes. Considering the density of housing and the cost per square foot to be close to all the action, square footage is usually on the skimpy side in downtown cores. As such, you’re usually stuck with living in no more than a few hundred square feet of space. If that’s OK with you, then perhaps staying in the city is not a bad idea.

But if you’re looking for more space to grow, then perhaps a move to the suburbs might be warranted. There are plenty of opportunities to buy a spacious home with a lot of outdoor space at an affordable price in the suburbs, which is typically not something you’ll be able to take advantage of in the city.

In fact, the opportunity to buy a larger home with a big yard for approximately the same price as a much smaller condo downtown is one of the biggest reasons why urban families end up moving outside of the city once they start having kids. If you’re looking for a lot more space, then suburban living might be the right way to go.

The Bottom Line

Everyone has different needs, wants, and aspirations for how they want to live their lives. Depending on exactly what you’re looking for, both the city and the suburbs each have their own set of unique traits for you to take advantage of. Carefully consider what you’re looking for in a lifestyle, both inside your home and in the community, before making the decision to either stay put in the city or make a move to the suburbs.

8 Reasons to Speak With a Lender Long Before Buying a Home

You might not be entirely ready to start shopping for a home just yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to speak with a mortgage lender. If buying a home is on the horizon at some point in the near future, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a chat with a lender to get yourself prepared for when the time comes.

Here are just a handful of reasons why it might be a good idea to talk to a lender before the house hunting process begins.

1. To Help You Make Sense of Your Credit Report

Your lender will want to pull a copy of your credit report to see what your credit history is like. This is a critical step in the loan application and approval process. If you haven’t pulled a copy for yourself, you might be completely unaware of all the information that might be contained in the report.

Your lender will be able to assess your credit report and inform you of the positive things that are strengthing your credit versus the things that might be pulling your credit score down. The lender may then make some suggestions about what to do as far as which debts are having the biggest negative impact on your borrowing power so you can make some effort to pay them down before applying for a mortgage.

2. To Review Your Income

Your lender will go over all the documentation surrounding your income, including your recent pay stubs and tax returns. If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to supply addition paperwork to prove your income and ensure you have a steady stream of funds coming in to support your mortgage payments.

Your lender will then provide you with some advice in terms of what you have to do to qualify for a home loan and can help you come up with a payment strategy. If your income isn’t yet up to par, your lender can provide you with some guidance as far as what you can do to improve your financial profile in order to secure a mortgage.

3. To Get a Head Start on the Mortgage Application Process

The mortgage application process can be a bit tedious. There’s a ton of paperwork for you to fill out and lots of documentation to submit. This can take a bit of time and effort to complete. By visiting a lender long before you start the house hunting process, you can get a head start on the process and be left with less to do after you find a home that you want to put an offer on.

4. To Find the Lowest Interest Rate and Best Terms

Not only can you speak with one lender, but you can also can chat with a few of them in order to help you compare different loan products to see which one is best for you. Shopping around with different lenders will allow you to find a mortgage product with the lowest rate and better terms, which can help you save a ton of money over the life of the loan and make payments more convenient for you.

Alternatively, you can work with a mortgage broker who will be able to do all the shopping around for you to find the best mortgage at the lowest rate.

5. To Get Pre-Approved For a Mortgage

Consider getting pre-approved for a mortgage before shopping for a home. A mortgage pre-approval letter is a big step in the process of securing a mortgage because the lender actually checks your credit and verifies your financial data. With a pre-approval letter in hand, you’ll have a commitment from your lender to loan you a certain amount of money towards the purchase of a home, albeit with certain conditions.

It should be noted that a pre-approval will not guarantee final loan approval. The actual home itself plays a role in the approval process, and situations may arise after pre-approval that could change things. Further, pre-approvals are only usually valid up to 90 days, which means if you wait 120 days to buy a home, your pre-approval letter may no longer be valid and the process will require additional work.

6. To Find Out How Much You Can Afford

Going over your financials with a lender will give you a much better idea of exactly how much you can afford in a home purchase. You might have some idea based on your income and debts, but a lender can provide you with a much more accurate picture. Knowing exactly how much you can afford will help you and your real estate agent focus only on properties that are priced within your budget rather than wasting time looking at homes are out of your reach.

7. To Impress Sellers

Sellers usually only want to work with buyers who have proven to be qualified to make a home purchase. There’s always a risk for sellers to enter into an agreement with a buyer who has yet to speak with a lender and get pre-approved for a home loan.

By going into an offer negotiation prepared with a pre-approval letter in hand, you’ll be looked more favorably upon by the sellers.

8. To Go Over Closing Costs

Not only is there a mortgage to pay when buying a home, but there are also a number of closing costs to deal with. Your lender will be able to help you understand all the costs associated with buying a home so you can go into the process well prepared. In addition to the down payment, closing costs can include:

  • Mortgage insurance
  • Title insurance
  • Credit report fees
  • Application fees
  • Appraisal fees

Generally speaking, buyers tend to pay anywhere between 2% to 5% of the purchase price of a home in closing costs.

The Bottom Line

If you’re planning to buy a home at some point but aren’t necessarily ready just yet, it still might be worth your while to visit a mortgage lender. There are plenty of things that you can learn and ways that you can prep for the application and approval process. If anything, starting the process early can help you get your credit score and finances to where they need to be to improve your chances of mortgage approval when the time comes.

8 Affordable Ways to Improve Your Kitchen

Your kitchen is the hub of your home. It’s not just where you prep meals, but it’s often a place of gathering and entertaining. Kitchens serve not only to eat in but to spend time in with friends and family. But if your kitchen is looking a little tired, it might be time to give it a bit of a facelift.

You might be a homeowner looking to spruce up your kitchen for your own needs, or you might be a seller who wants to improve the look of your kitchen to attract more buyers. Whatever your situation may be, there are plenty of ways to boost the aesthetics of your kitchen while sticking to a modest budget.

1. Hang New Light Fixtures

While you could easily change up all the lights in your kitchen, you can still make a big difference and stick to a lower budget by focusing on just one light fixture. Whether it’s a chandelier over your dining table or pendant lamps over your kitchen island, new light fixtures can really spruce up the look and feel of a kitchen. Not only that, but lights have a way of adding ambiance to any space, which you can tweak to your liking.

2. Replace the Faucet

Don’t underestimate the power of a sink and faucet in a kitchen. Homeowners spend a lot of time selecting the perfect faucet for their kitchens, not just for functionality, but also for looks. If your kitchen faucet is starting to look a little lackluster, consider swapping it for a new one. For around $100, you can get yourself a decent faucet that can make a big difference in the look and feel of your kitchen space.

3. Reface the Kitchen Cabinet Doors

Completely ripping down cabinets is a great way to make a massive difference in a kitchen, but that’s not always necessary. If your cabinets are in decent shape, sometimes all that might be needed is a new paint job. For very little money (but a bit more elbow grease), you can re-paint or re-stain the cabinet doors in a completely new color to make them look like they’ve been newly installed.

4. Paint the Backsplash

A change in color of the backsplash can add plenty of visual interest in the kitchen. If your kitchen currently has little more than drywall on the wall above your kitchen sink, consider painting it in a completely different color. Or else, consider taking things a step further and add a completely new material to the backsplash – such as peel-and-stick tiles – to change things up.

5. Paint an Accent Wall

If you want to add a pop of color to your kitchen but aren’t too keen on splashing it all over your kitchen, an accent wall can be all that’s needed to add some color. It’s a quick, easy, and affordable job to do. And if you decide that the color you painted no longer tickles your fancy in the near future, it doesn’t take much to repaint it in a completely different shade. 

6. Change the Hardware

You might not think twice about the handles and knobs on your cabinet doors and drawers, but they play a big role in the overall aesthetics of your kitchen. If you’re looking for a quick, simple, and relatively cheap way to update your kitchen, changing the hardware would be a great place to start.

There are so many different styles, finishes, and colors available on the market that you can really put a unique spin on your kitchen decor by simply swapping the old hardware for newer pieces.

7. Spruce Up the Decor

Your kitchen doesn’t have to be limited to just fixtures to give it some personality. Don’t be afraid to play around with decor to breathe some life into your kitchen. Things such as table runners, wall art, pretty window treatments, and even area rugs can really make your kitchen stand out.

8. Replace the Countertop

Changing the countertop might seem like an expensive endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. These days, you can get yourself a beautiful granite or quartz countertop for a relatively affordable price.

Back in the day, natural stone counters may have been reserved for the wealthy, but these days, the prices have really come down. Granite countertops are now financially attainable for the average household, so you might want to consider swapping your old counter for something shiny and new for a few hundred bucks.

The Bottom Line

The kitchen is arguably one of the more important spaces in a home. Whether you’re just looking to update your kitchen for your own tastes or want to spruce it up to appeal to buyers, there are a few things you can do that are relatively affordable and easy to do to improve the look and feel of your kitchen without breaking the bank.

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$584,900 | Beds 4 | Baths 3 | 2,527 SqFt

Gorgeous home in Tracy! Located in the desirable Presidio Community…this home has 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths (1 bed and bath on the main level), approx. 2,527 square feet of living space, built in 2003 by Standard Pacific Homes. Great curb appeal, attractive hardscape as you approach the porch, inviting entry welcomes you to an open floor plan with vaulted ceilings. Open kitchen-family concept that looks out to a gleaming back yard pool with a water feature and no rear neighbors! Generous size secondary bedrooms and large master with walk in closet. Large 3 car tandem garage ideal for storage! Close to commute access, shops, restaurants, Tracy Sports Complex, schools and more! This one is a must see!

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE HOME

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FULL LISTING

Strange Home Features That Could Throw Buyers Off

The quirky and unique features of a home might accurately showcase a homeowner’s personality, but they might not necessarily be very good at impressing buyers. Some features could actually throw buyers off and even confuse them to the point that making an offer is off the table.

Personalizing a home is great, as it can make family members more comfortable. But when it comes time to sell, such features can work against homeowners.

Here are a few odd features that could throw buyers off and potentially derail a sale.

Converted Garages

Some homeowners who find themselves short on space may turn to their garages to provide them with the extra room required. Whether it’s to house a fitness area or a man cave, the extra space of a garage can certainly come in handy.

But many buyers who actually want a garage that serves its original purpose might not appreciate garage conversions. One of the rules of home staging is to showcase every room in the home with its intended purpose.

A dining room should be outfitted as a dining room, for example. This will help show buyers what each space is supposed to be used for without any confusion.

Bidets

Not something you’ll see in the average home, bidets are typically located next to the toilet and are designed to wash certain private areas of the body. Buyers will definitely wonder what they are and might be confused as to what their purpose may be. And perhaps they might not want to know, after all.

Oversized Statues

Whether it’s in the middle of the front yard or the center of the foyer, a massive statue might be of significance to the homeowner but might be overwhelming for buyers. And if the statue has some sort of political or religious affiliation, that can be even more off-putting.

Getting rid of these statues can also be a major endeavor, so any buyers who may be interested in a particular home may wonder what type of effort and cost would be involved in removing them, which could add to the costs of making the purchase.

Pet Rooms

A rising trend among homeowners with pets is installing a mudroom specifically for furry friends. These include shower stalls that make it ultra convenient to wash messy pets that have just come from a frolick in the mud before they’re allowed to trot around inside the home. But for buyers who might not be pet lovers, these rooms might be considered a bit of a waste of space.

Strange Looking Plants in the Yard

Landscaping plays a huge role in the aesthetics of a home and is a key component to curb appeal. Sellers should certainly maximize their curb appeal in order to attract the masses of buyers. But certain types of plants could actually raise an eyebrow or two among buyers.

Some plants are not conducive to a healthy garden and can actually compromise the health of surrounding greenery. Other plants might even be dangerous, both to pets and humans. Others still might be so invasive that they can compromise the integrity of a home’s foundation if planted too close to the home.

Oddly Placed Bathrooms

Some homes have such strange layouts that really make buyers wonder what the original builder was thinking. One such layout incorporates bathrooms that are positioned adjacent to kitchens. If there are two rooms in a house that should never be mixed, it’s these two. After all, the thought of a bathroom being anywhere near where people would dine is certainly not a pleasant one.

Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly an easy fix and would require a bit of in-depth work to build a completely new bathroom in a more appropriate spot.

Inadequate Access to Rooms

Piggybacking off of the previous issue, some older homes may have layouts that require occupants to have to go through one room in order to access another. While that might be fine with living rooms or kitchens, it can be pretty awkward when the space being invaded is a bedroom. It’s pretty inconvenient to have to pass through a bedroom – which is supposed to be a private space – to access another room in the home.

Compartmentalized Rooms

The going trend over the past few years in home design is open concepts. More and more homeowners like the idea of having a wide open space where they can interact with others regardless of whether they’re in the kitchen or living room. Open concept layouts also make a home seem larger and brighter, which is why they’ve become so popular.

But some homeowners still like the idea of having separate rooms for separate purposes and intentionally compartmentalize their rooms in order to achieve that goal. While that may work for some homeowners, it’s not exactly a layout that buyers necessarily appreciate.

The Bottom Line

Selling a home is already a challenge, but trying to sell a home with awkward features like the ones just mentioned can make the job even harder. When dealing with odd features and layouts, it’s best to work with a home stager who will have sound suggestions about how to counteract the effects of such traits in order to attract buyers and end up with a quick sale.

Should You Get a Mortgage Online?

Unless you’ve got a lump sum of cash to put down, getting a mortgage is part and parcel of buying a home. Luckily, there are plenty of different mortgage products and sources available these days to accommodate the varying types of buyers out there and the unique financial situations they’re in. And online mortgages are just one of them.

It should come as no surprise that borrowers can get their hands on a mortgage – or any other type of loan – via the internet given the rise of digital technology taking over the world as of late. And there’s no doubt that applying for a mortgage online can be incredibly convenient.

The question is, are online mortgages the right avenue for you to take? Or should you stick with the conventional in-person method of applying for a mortgage?

Let’s go through some of the advantages of getting a mortgage online as well as some of the potential drawbacks to help you make that important decision.

Pro #1: Comparing Mortgages is More Convenient

It’s always recommended to compare different mortgage products from different lenders to see what they offer and what would be more suitable and affordable for you. But instead of going through all the legwork needed to do that, shopping online can make this process much simpler and faster.

These days, online lenders post all of their pertinent information online in regards to terms, interest rates, and fees. They’ll also provide you with a good-faith estimate that itemizes all of the info related to the mortgage to help make comparison shopping rather straight-forward.

Pro #2: The Application Process is Quick

Generally speaking, online lenders are known for their relatively quick mortgage applications. Borrowers can quickly fill out and submit an online mortgage application and supply all pertinent financial documentation needed for the lender to assess all the information provided to make a decision.

Borrowers can simply scan all the paperwork required and submit it online rather than having to gather it all up and supply it in person. The application can be filled out in mere minutes thanks to simplified applications that online lenders have refined.

Thanks to such a quick application process, the actual approval process also tends to be faster compared to the average route.

Pro #3: Lower Interest Rates and Fees May Be Possible

Since online lenders don’t have the same level of overhead costs that traditional lenders do, they may be in a better position to offer lower fees and interest rates as a result. Even a fraction of a percentage point on your interest rate can translate into tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the life of your loan.

Pro #4: Approval May Be Easier

Online lenders have made a name for themselves in terms of helping borrowers increase their odds of mortgage approval. While conventional lenders may have stringent lending criteria that they have to follow, online alternative lenders may a bit more lax in terms of credit requirements.

Borrowers who may have a tough time getting approved for a mortgage the traditional way because of their sub-par credit scores may find more success by applying with an online lender.

Con #1: Scammers May Be Lurking

While there are plenty of legitimate online lenders out there, there are also some scammers who may in business solely to take advantage of unsuspecting borrowers. The world of the web is filled with all sorts of different scammers and hackers, and the lending sphere is not immune.

You need to do your due diligence when it comes to applying for an online mortgage. Use common sense to help sniff out predatory lenders. Basically, anyone guaranteeing mortgage approval and offering terms that seem too good to be true should probably be avoided.

Con #2: Online Lenders Are Only Suited For Simple Real Estate Transactions

Online lenders can be great for mortgages and real estate deals that are streamlined and simple. But they may not be suitable for transactions that are more complex in nature. If you have a good job, good credit, and are buying a typical home, an online lender might be a decent avenue to take.

But if your income is complicated, you have some sort of credit complication, and the home you plan to buy is not comparable to any other homes in the area, online lenders might not be seasoned in dealing with these situations. In this case, you might be better off working with a conventional lender or mortgage broker who can help you work through all the wrinkles in the loan process.

Con #3: You Won’t Get the Same Level of Service

At the end of the day, there’s no comparing personalized face-to-face service that you get from a traditional lender from an online lender. The type of customer service you’ll get from either one is just not the same.

If you’re the type who has no problem dealing with a lender via the internet, then an online lender might be for you. But if you appreciate one-on-one contact with a professional, a conventional lender or mortgage broker might be best. This is especially true if you like the idea of being able to communicate outside of traditional business hours, which many mortgage brokers are willing to do, but cannot be said for online lenders.

The Bottom Line

Online lenders are capitalizing on the digital world that we’ve become immersed in, and they’re providing many homebuyers with a quick and easy way to apply and get approved for a mortgage. They certainly have their perks, but there may also be a handful of drawbacks associated with taking this route. Ultimately, the choice you make will come down to your comfort level and what you expect and need from your lender.

Tax Perks of Buying a Home

It might not quite be time to file your taxes just yet, but it’s important to understand all the ways that you can take advantage of the tax perks available to homeowners.

In fact, buying a home comes with a number of tax breaks to be taken advantage of that can help potentially save you hundreds of dollars – or more – thanks to the following.

Mortgage Interest Deductions

The principal portion of your mortgage payments is one major expense that you have to pay when you purchase a home, but the interest portion that’s tacked onto to it can be an equally hefty expense. That’s especially true during the first few years of your mortgage where a bigger chunk of your payments is dedicated to interest.

Luckily, you may be able to deduct your mortgage interest come tax time. In fact, this is one of the biggest tax deduction advantages of buying and owning a home. The cap for deducting mortgage interest is $750,000.

Property Tax Deductions

Property taxes are just another annoying tax to have to pay as a homeowner, but they can be deducted. There are rules to this deduction, however. According to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), property taxes are no longer deducted separately, but rather are included with state and local income taxes. The cap for these deductions is set at $10,000 for married couples who file their taxes jointly.

Private Mortgage Insurance Deductions

Saving up for a down payment can be tough, which is why there are plenty of mortgage products and programs available that make it easier for homebuyers to be eligible for a mortgage without a massive down payment amount. But if you put down less than 20% of the purchase price on a conventional mortgage, you’ll be subject to Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) premiums.

These extra fees will be tacked on to your mortgage payments, and you’ll have to continue paying them until your loan amount dips to 78% of the value of your home. Until then, you’ll have to continue paying these added insurance premiums.

The good news is that private mortgage insurance premiums can be deducted. That said, this deduction is no longer a separate deduction, which means homeowners can choose one deduction that also includes property taxes as well as state and local income taxes. Single taxpayers are eligible for the deduction if they have an adjusted gross income of less than $50,000, and married taxpayers filing jointly who have a combined income of less than $100,0000 are also eligible.

HELOC Deductions

If you have a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or home equity loan, you may be eligible to deduct the interest paid. However, there are exceptions. According to the IRS, interest paid on HELOCs and home equity loans may still be deducted, as long as the loan funds are put towards buying, constructing, or improving the home that is being used to back the loan.

For example, you wouldn’t be able to deduct the interest of your HELOC if you used the money to buy a car or pay for an extended vacation. On the other hand, of the money was used to renovate your kitchen or bathroom, then such deductions can be made.

Home Improvement Deductions

Renovating your home and adding value to it is a good thing. But not every home improvement project that you take on will be eligible for a tax deduction. If you plan to live in your home for the long haul – including throughout retirement and beyond – then any improvements that you make to your home that will make it possible to live in it throughout your Golden Years may qualify.

For example, wheelchair ramps, stair lifts, or widened shower stalls with handrails can make living easier for the elderly. In these cases, the cost associated with these upgrades may be able to be written off. Just keep in mind that such improvements will have to be deemed a medical necessity to take advantage of the tax breaks.

Energy-Efficiency Upgrade Deductions

Homeowners who make their homes energy efficient in some way can take advantage of several opportunities to save some money. The local, state and federal government offer incentives for homeowners to make improvements to their homes that will save energy, and that includes tax breaks.

The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit offers a couple of tax incentives for installing energy-efficient upgrades in a home, including solar electric and solar water heaters. Up until the end of 2019, homeowners can deduct 30% of the expenses associated with these upgrades.

Home Sale Exclusions

While you might not be thinking about selling so soon after buying, you should know that homeowners can get a tax break when they sell as well, as long as they meet certain criteria. Generally speaking, anyone who sells real estate and realizes a profit may be subject to capital gains taxes on the proceeds of the sale if they fall outside of certain requirements.

In order to avoid paying capital gains taxes, the home must have been used as the primary residence for a minimum of two of the past five years before selling. Further, up to $250,000 of gains can be free of capital gains taxes for single tax filers, or $500,000 for married couples filing jointly.

The Bottom Line

Everyone loves saving a few bucks when filing their taxes, and homeowners have a distinct advantage to do so. The above-mentioned incentives might be applicable to you, helping you save quite a bit of money on your next tax filing. Be sure to consult with a tax professional to find out exactly what you may be eligible to claim in order to maximize your savings.