Tag Archives: Selling a Home

5 Spine-Tingling Stories From Exterminators and What They Learned

5 Spine-Tingling Stories From Exterminators and What They Learned

Craig Donofrio


Exterminators have seen it all. They’ve seen stuff that no one, including them, ever wants to see. And as long as you’re at a safe distance, it’s oddly fascinating to delve into what some of their worst days actually were like. Check out these war stories—and learn professional secrets for keeping your own home critter-free.

The case of the black kitchen floor

One day in the summer of 2009, John Kane, a technical services manager for the pest control company Orkin, went to a home in a Philadelphia suburb to get rid of a reported mice problem. It turned out to be a very big problem.

“There were frayed wires hanging from the ceiling and holes in the walls,” Kane recalls of the two-bedroom home occupied by an older couple. “The kitchen floor was black—only it wasn’t. We scraped … and it was white—but covered in pressed mouse droppings.”

In total, Kane and his crew caught more than 3,000 mice. And yes, this kind of extreme rodent invasion happens more often than you might think. According to Kane’s calculations, one pregnant mouse can lead to 28,000 mice over the course of five to six generations if every mouse survived. Luckily, their population is usually kept in check by predators, or exterminators like Kane.

“The lady of the house thanked us and said, ‘Last night was the first night we didn’t have a mouse in bed with us,’” he says. Gross.


Raining roaches

When California exterminator Milton Cardoza was called to a San Jose restaurant to get rid of cockroaches in 2004, he was warned by colleagues to make sure his pant legs were tucked into his socks, and to “start stomping” his feet once they started fogging. He wasn’t sure why. Then he found out.

“Thousands of roaches started climbing out from everywhere you can think of—I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cardoza recalls. “They were climbing toward me from the ceiling; they fell down and started coming at me.”

Roaches can be serious business. They can get into your appliances and short out your circuitry. Or they could just infest a place so badly, you need to burn it to the ground.

In the video below, the fire department of Pana, IL, did a controlled burn on a residential house because it was infested with the six-legged scuttlers. To prevent the roaches from fleeing into the neighborhood, it dug a trench, filled it with straw, poured gasoline on it, and made a ring of fire.


Nose nibblers

Jeff McChesney, an exterminator with the pest control company Truly Nolen, says one of the worst cases he experienced involved a woman with a rat problem in Palm Harbor, FL, in September 2015. Over the course of a year, she had spent over $8,000 on another company to clean up her rat problem, McChesney says. That turned out to be money wasted, when she woke up “in the middle of the night with a rat on her face,” McChesney says. The rat had been chewing on her nose.

OK, we’ll repeat that. The rat had been chewing on her nose.

After a follow-up of eight more daily visits, with a total of nine rodents collected, the home was proclaimed to be rat-free. There’s no word on the current condition of the owner’s schnoz, but history confirms she may have gotten off easy—rats have been known to eat live humans if provoked. Witness England’s “Rats’ Dungeon” during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, where “the flesh has been torn from the arms and legs of prisoners during sleep by the well-known voracity of these animals.” So, compared to that, a chomped honker seems like NBD.


Bed of fire

While the thought of rats performing rhinoplasty is horrifying, McChesney says the worst infestation he ever had to combat happened in March 2013 to an elderly, nearly blind woman in Gulfport, FL, who had a red, bumpy rash covering her body. For a month, a doctor treated her for allergies but made no headway.

Thinking it might be bedbugs, she called for pest control to inspect her three-story condo. The good news? It wasn’t bedbugs. The bad news?

“I discovered a fire ant nest in her bed was a satellite colony traveling back and forth to the main supercolony nesting on the roof,” McChesney recalls. The fire ants were chomping on her skin while she slept, but the agony had been blocked because she was on pain medication. That, combined with her poor sight, meant she had been sleeping in the belly of a fire ant swarm for weeks.

Fortunately, McChesney’s team was able to quickly clean up the situation, and her rash disappeared. The memories, however, will live on forever.


A movable feast

Jorge Sandoval, a manager with the pest control company Truly Nolen, says his biggest bug nightmare involved bedbugs at a senior living community in San Diego in August 2012. Starting from the front door, he spotted blood spots—the modus operandi of bedbugs—spattered on the wall and near a bed. But it wasn’t just bedbugs. He also spotted some German cockroaches, and the two insect populations were not living in harmony.

“The cockroaches were actually feeding on the bedbugs,” Sandoval recalls.

It took Sandoval and his crew two weeks to stop this creepy cycle of seniors feeding bedbugs and bedbugs feeding cockroaches. Call it repellent, but some insect aficionados point out the positives of using cockroaches as a natural and effective form of pest control.

“Cockroaches are disgusting, frightening pests, but they may be able to help get rid of other disgusting, frightening pests,” according to one comment on roachforum.com. “Bedbugs are the cockroach’s midnight snack, and cockroaches will eat and kill a bedbug infestation.” Which is true—but then you’re left with cockroaches. What then?


Keep the creepy crawlies at bay

Our experts have these tips to prevent pests from infiltrating your home.

  • Trim branches away from your home. “Trees form bridges, especially for ants,” Kane says.
  • Check all leaks for signs of pest activity. “Where there’s water, there’s life,” Kane says. Warm, humid areas such as dishwashers are particularly inviting to bugs.
  • “Don’t let any hole bigger than a dime go unsealed. Mice can enter a home through a hole the size of a dime, and rats can enter the home through any opening the size of a quarter,” Sandoval says.
  • Cleanliness is critically important. Dishes in the sink overnight are “an insect’s buffet,” Sandoval says.
  • Understand over-the-counter pesticides and know their limits. Kane says to use only the amount recommended on the directions, and keep in mind they lose their effectiveness eventually. And if things get out of hand, hire a professional already!

Income Properties in Summit County

Income Properties in Summit County

Summit county is a wonderful place to buy a vacation home, but is it a good place to buy an income producing property? The answer to that question can be very tricky.  With prices on the rise, it is becoming more and more difficult to purchase a property that will actually make money.  When I speak with clients, I often advise that it is possible to cover your costs by renting your home but you have to be able to prioritize that over your desires sometimes.
When looking at a home to purchase it’s very important to balance your monthly carrying costs with the rental potential.  HOA’s can be one of the biggest factors that prevent you from being able to cover your costs.  If you compare a home that has a monthly HOA fee of $400 to another that has a monthly fee of $800, that means that you have to be able to generate $4800 more in rentals per year to be able to cover your costs.
Another factor to consider is what is included in your HOAs.  Heat tends to be the highest utility in our cold mountain climate.  Heat can be upwards of $200-$400 per month depending on your heating system.  When you have renters using your home, they are not as conscious about the cost of heating as you would be so expect them to leave the temperature higher than you may personally.  If your HOA does not include heat, your carrying costs will be much higher.  Renters also expect cable and internet so those can be around an additional $100 per month if your HOA does not include them.
Location is one of the biggest factors that determine the amount of rent you achieve.  A ski-in/ski-out home will always achieve more in annual rent than somewhere that requires you to drive to the ski resort.  Of course this will come with a premium price so you will have to factor that in.  Also, the number of people that your home will sleep is a big factor.  Don’t confuse the number of people with the number of bedrooms.  Often a 2 bedroom with good sleeping solutions will rent just as well as a 3 bedroom that sleeps the same number of people.  Surprisingly 1 bedrooms and studios do extremely well in our market here in Summit County.
When you rent your home also makes a huge difference.  Of course you are buying a vacation home because you want to be able to use it too.  However, if you think you want to use your home on major holidays, you can expect to loose out on a huge amount of revenue.  Christmas is one of the biggest revenue generating times of the year so if you are tempted to use it during that time just be aware of the income you may be loosing out on.
Last but not least, the way that you handle your rentals will make a huge difference.  If you want to hand the keys over to a professional management company and have them do all of the work, expect them to take 30%-40% of your gross rentals.  That will severely cut into your ability to cover your costs.  If you want to cover your costs or even make a little money, it is going to take work.
Keep in mind that if you were just going on vacation frequently that you would be spending money on hotels every time. (That could be spending upwards of $5,000 a year if you are coming up monthly.)  If you are buying a vacation home, you may not be able to cover 100% of your costs, but even if you are putting $5,000 of your own money into your home each year, you are still in a better position than just spending that money on hotels.  You are building equity into your home every year you own it.  No one can predict exactly what the real estate market will do, but chances are when you go to sell your home in the future, you will make a profit.  Not to mention that when you are on vacation, you always have a place that feels like home!
Anne Skinner

Vertical Gardens (HGTV)

HGTV is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. My husband and I have gotten a lot of our inspiration for our own home from HGTV. Below is a compilation of 40 Vertical Gardens that will make having your own garden possible up here in the High Country where most condos don’t have yards.

“Vertical gardens are a great place to grow greens in a micro space, says urban gardener Melinda Myers.”

Click Photo for Full Gallery at HGTV.com

5 Tax Benefits of Owning a Second Home

As a RSPS certified realtor I can help you find your perfect family get away. Realtor.com explains how owning that home can even help get you more tax benefits.

 5 Tax Benefits of Owning a Second Home


There are tons of benefits that come with owning a second home: novelty and adventure, a place to escape and unwind, an opportunity to create memories that last a lifetime, a valuable tool to make vacation-craving friends like you a whole lot (for better or for worse).

But there’s another benefit that’s often overlooked: the tax breaks.

You already know that owning a home usually offers some tax deductions. But what if you own two? Or three? What if you’re a regular Donald Trump (back in his real estate, meat magnate heyday, of course)?

Since we know you won’t mind a little extra cash to spend while soaking in your surroundings during your next getaway, we thought we’d tell you how to reap the fruits of your second-home purchase.

1. Mortgage interest—yes, again

When it comes to owning a second home, the interest on your mortgage is deductible. The same rules that come with writing off mortgage interest for your first home apply to your second.

In fact, you can write off as much as 100% of the interest you pay on up to $1 million of debt, which includes total debt taken on to pay for both homes, as well as money spent on improving the properties. (That’s not up to $1 million for each property—just up to $1 million in total.)

2. Home improvements

Is your second home a fixer-upper? If you want to spend the off-season making improvements to your hideaway, you can deduct the interest on a home equity loan or line of credit.

But there are a couple of exceptions.

For starters, there will be a limit on the amount you can deduct if the home equity loan on your main or second home is more than $50,000 if filing single or $100,000 if married or filing jointly.

Second, the amount you can deduct has a limit if the mortgage is more than the fair market value of the home, says Gil Charney, director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block.

For example, let’s say a taxpayer has a mortgage of $220,000 and takes out a home equity loan of $65,000. The property’s fair market value is $275,000. Since the difference between the fair market value and the mortgage is $55,000, then $55,000 of the home equity loan can be deducted, not the full $65,000.

3. Property taxes

You can also deduct your second home’s property taxes, which are based on the assessed value of the home. That’s good news. Even better news? Unlike the mortgage interest tax deduction, there’s no dollar limit on the amount of real estate taxes that can be deducted on any number of homes owned by the taxpayer.

But beware: Taxpayers who can afford two homes are likely to land in a higher tax bracket—which means slimmer pickings for tax savings. For example, in 2016, a married couple whose gross income exceeds $311,300 would have limits on the types of itemized deductions they could take.

4. Renting out your home

If you rent out your second home for 14 days or less over the course of a year, that rental income is tax-free—and there’s no limit to what you can charge per day or week. Score!

But if you’re hoping to put your secondary digs on Airbnb or another rental site for more than 14 days during the year, be prepared to do some heavy math come tax time.

You’ll want to figure out the number of days you rent your home and divide that by the total number of days your home was used—whether it was you or a renter staying there. (The total number of days that the home was vacant doesn’t fall into this equation.)

For instance, let’s say you rented out your vacation home for 30 days within a year, and vacationed in your home for 90 days.

We’ll divide 30 (the days you rented it out) by 120 (the total number of days the home was used). The result: 25% of your rental-related expenses—which could range from utilities to the cost of a property manager—can be deducted. Now, if your home is losing value, that same percentage (in this example, 25%) of depreciation costs can also be deducted.

Here’s the caveat, Charney explains: Depreciation costs can be deducted only if there is rental income remaining after taking into account other deductions, such as mortgage interest, property taxes, and direct expenses tied to renting your home—like agent fees or advertising.

5. When it’s time to sell

Maybe you bought a far-off hideaway that you’re lucky to visit a couple of times a year. Or perhaps your vacation home is just a quick drive away, and you spend every possible moment there.

If it’s the latter—and you don’t already know which of your homes is your primary residence and which is the second home—now’s the time to figure it out. Distinguishing between the two can have big tax implications when it comes time to sell.

That’s because a capital gain of up to $250,000 (or $500,000 for taxpayers who are married/joint filers) on the sale of the principal residence may be excluded from taxable income.

Your principal—or primary—residence is the home you used most during the five years prior to the sale. But other factors—such as your job’s location, voter registration address, and banking location—could also come into play. Among other requirements, you must own and use that principal residence for at least two of the five years before the home is sold.

We know—that’s a lot of heavy stuff to take in. But you knew your second home would pay off in more ways than one, right? Now, hurry up and file your tax return—so you can escape to your happy place and forget about burdensome things. Like taxes.

So You Wanna Buy a House? Step 10: Negotiate Closing Costs

Closing costs can be a good place to negotiate with the home sellers. Realtor.com outlines what goes into your closing costs and how to potentially save money up front.

So You Wanna Buy a House? Step 10: Negotiate Closing Costs

Troels Graugaard/Getty Images

Jamie Wiebe

If you’re gearing up to buy a home, one bitter pill you’ve got to swallow is that you don’t just have to pay for the house itself. You’ll also need to open your swiftly slimming wallet for a myriad of costs, fees, and taxes—the infamous closing costs. It’s a wide variety of fees that average more than $2,500 on a $200,000 loan. Gulp!


After the stress of house hunting and the anxiety of the offer, you might feel like you can’t handle yet another hurdle. But closing costs are an inevitable part of the purchase process. Happily, there’s often wiggle room—at least on the costs that could be covered by the seller. We’ll give you the lowdown on all of the gritty details in this installment of the 2016 Home-Buying Guide. Learn about what goes into your closing costs—and, even more important,  how to whittle them down to size.

Inspection and appraisal fees

You won’t have much luck lowering appraisal fees—since the lender selects the appraiser, you’ll likely be stuck paying their costs without much room to negotiate. The home inspector offers more flexibility: Compare a variety of quotes to find the cheapest option. You even might be able to persuade the seller to cover some of these fees, depending on your market (this is less likely in a red-hot market). Granted, you won’t be saving a ton of money here, considering the average home inspection costs $300 to $500, but a couple of hundred extra never hurts.

Lender fees

Let’s hope you paid careful attention when shopping for your mortgage: Different lenders require different fees, and buyers should keep an eye out for “junk fees” like for the application, credit check, processing, and even the frustrating but all too common “miscellaneous” fee.

Also take a close look at the loan estimate you receive from your lender at the beginning of the process and compare it with the closing disclosure statement, which you’ll get three days before your scheduled closing. Make sure no unexpected charges snuck their way onto your bill.

Discount points

If you decided to pay for discount points at closing to lower your interest rate, well, the bill is due. However, with the current low interest rates, that might not make sense for many buyers anyhow.

Home insurance

No, you can’t negotiate the existence of home insurance (most lenders require it to proceed with the loan), but you can certainly shop around. With the average premium stretching to $1,034 in 2015, your insurance will be a large cost regardless—but researching companies and comparing quotes goes a long way toward decreasing your expenses.

Title insurance

In many states, title insurance is a lender mandate that protects your ownership of the property, heading off a number of unsavory situations such as fraudulent claims, courthouse errors, liens, and family disputes. If your lender requires you to purchase title insurance, you can shop around for a better quote. Unlike home insurance, title insurance is a one-time fee, which can make its high cost (the average buyer pays $3.50 per $1,000 of purchase price) easier to swallow.

Sometimes, the seller will pay for title insurance; however, this is uncommon and may not be the norm in your state. Consult with your real estate agent to determine if this is an option for you.

Seller’s costs

Sneaky, sneaky: One easy way to avoid paying a mountain of closing costs is by asking the seller to cover some or all of the fees. You might not have much luck in a red-hot market, but then again, a seller might agree to cover closing costs if she is able to get the selling price she wants. This works for buyers who might be short on cash but can handle adding a bit more to their loan balance. FHA loans allow sellers to contribute up to 6% toward closing costs; VA loans allow 4%, and conventional loans permit 3% to 6%.


Most experts recommend closing on a house at the end of the month. Closing costs also include any interest that accumulates before the end of the current month—so closing on the 29th rather than the 1st of the next month will save you money.

But before you sign on the dotted line, there is one more consideration that might affect your closing costs—or even the entire purchase. Next up on realtor.com‘s 2016 Home-Buying Guide: the final walk-through!

10 Home Renovations That Offer the Best (and Worst) Return on Investment

Realtor.com is at it again with a very useful list of which home improvement projects off the best (and worst) return on your investment. One of my favorite especially up here in Summit County is resealing entryways (Number 4). It helps with heat and energy efficiency.

10 Home Renovations That Offer the Best (and Worst) Return on Investment


Judy Dutton

Remodeling may be a labor of love, but it’s also an investment that can seriously boost the value of your home.  Only by how much? Well, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report, you’ll recoup an average of 64% of what you paid for a renovation if you sell your home this year.

To arrive at these figures, Remodeling asked consultants in various markets to estimate the average cost for 30 home improvement projects, from adding a bathroom to replacing a roof. Then, they asked real estate agents nationwide to estimate the expected resale value of these renovations so that readers could compare their out-of-pocket costs to how much money they’d get back when it came time to sell their home.

So, what projects gets you the most bang for your home renovation buck? It may not be nearly as sexy (or fun!) as adding a chef’s kitchen or glam bathroom, but attic insulation gets the top spot. That’s right: Stuff some fiberglass insulation into the walls of a 35-by-30-foot attic, and you’ll pay an average of $1,268. But when you sell, you will rake in $116.90 for every $100. For you math-challenged out there, that’s a recoup of 116.9% of your costs. It’s the only home reno on this year’s report that redeems more money than you spend!

The next best-paying renovation on the list: manufactured stone veneer, offering a respectable 92.9% return.

Meanwhile—sorry, luxury tub fans—the home improvement project that reaps the worst ROI is the addition of a bathroom, at 56.2% (although the “added value” of an extra bathroom for anyone who’s ever had to wait their turn for one is, of course, priceless).

Take-home lesson? If you’re looking for a general rule of thumb, it’s that less is more: Lower-cost projects  generally reap bigger returns, with four of the five projects that cost less than $5,000 ranking among the top five for money back when you sell.

Check out the best (and worst) returns for home renovations in the two charts below, including how much you’ll pay and get back if you sell your home this year.


Expect a Strong Spring Housing Market

RealtorMag explains why it looks like it is going to be a strong spring in the housing market. Summit County is no different. 

Expect a Strong Spring Housing Market

Recent housing and economic reports predict we’ll see solid spring home sales, according to Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com®’s chief economist. Here are some signs:

On jobs: “Job creation — arguably the most important factor in housing demand — is moving apace,” Smoke notes. In January, 151,000 jobs were created and unemployment is near 10-year lows. Smoke predicts that the latest employment growth should translate into a 3 percent boost to home sales this year.

On home sales: Existing-home sales from January 2015 to January 2016 have grown 11 percent. Sales are taking longer close, due to new mortgage rules that took effect last fall, but the pace of sales is growing. New-home sales have also grown solidly year-over-year, and the median price of new homes is declining as more builders offer more affordable homes than catering to just the luxury.

On home prices: Prices are moving up and most of that has been attributed to the limited number of homes for-sale. At the current pace, there is a four-month supply of homes on the market — much lower than the norms of six to seven months. “This is driving prices higher and encouraging consumers who hope to buy this year to get started as soon as possible,” Smoke notes.

On mortgage rates: Low mortgage rates are improving home buyer affordability, for now. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged under 3.7 percent in the latest week, which offers buyers nearly 5 percent more buying power than they had at the end of 2015, Smoke notes.

But as Smoke notes: “not everything is rainbows and unicorns. The biggest negative trend impacting potential demand relates to the January and February declines in stock values, which have taken a toll on consumer confidence.” Also, the tight supply of homes for-sale could also limit sales in the spring season. That said, for buyers that are able, the low mortgage rates of the season may prove a strong motivator why buyers shouldn’t wait.

Source: “The Numbers Are In: Yup, 2016 Is Off to a Good Start in Home Sales,” realtor.com® (Feb. 26, 2016)

Appraisal Volume Rises As Spring Homebuying Season Starts Early

With appraisal volumes rising be sure to get your high country escape while there is inventory in Summit County. Brena Swanson explains why the homebuying season has started early from HousingWire.

Appraisal Volume Rises As Spring Homebuying Season Starts Early

by Brena Swanson

Appraisal volume jumped 8.4% for the week of Feb. 21, marking the fifth consecutive week of increases, as the spring homebuying season draws closer, a la mode, an appraisal forms software company that tracks appraisal volume throughout the country.

While the increase the previous week was minimal, it still ticked up 1.9% for the week of Feb. 14.Kevin Golden, director of analytics with a la mode, added that except for the MLK holiday week, the index has moved upward in 2016. 

Appraisal volume is an indicator of market strength and has some advantages over mortgage applications. Fallout is less for appraisals since they are ordered later in the mortgage process after credit worthiness determined and there are few multiple-orders.

a la mode captures 50% of the appraiser market – more than 6 million appraisals per year since the fourth quarter of 2006.

However, Phil Huff, president and CEO of Platinum Data Solutions, added “We need to remember, though, that just because an appraisal is completed, doesn’t mean the mortgage transaction will close, particularly when it comes to refinances.”

“Spring buying season started earlier this year. That, and continued low rates are prompting homebuyers to get into the market,” Huff said.

5 Things Your Accountant Wishes You Knew About Owning a Home

My favorite is “5. Home improvements can lower your tax bill, too.” Jamie Wiebe of Realtor.com outlines 5 very helpful tips accountants wish you knew about owning a home.


5 Things Your Accountant Wishes You Knew About Owning a Home

Elizabeth Simpson/Getty Images

Jamie Wiebe

What’s not to love about tax season? The chill you get when you realize you owe the IRS thousands, the fear that you may be getting a bit too aggressive on your deductions, the fleeting hope you’re due for a big return … that’s dashed when you end up with $2…

OK, so maybe only accountants love tax season. And here’s another thing they love: wielding their vast knowledge of the tax code to help their clients save cash! Lots of it! If you own a home, there’s plenty they can do to ease the burden of what you owe.

Of course, if you haven’t hired an accountant to do your taxes already, you may not be able to talk to one until sometime after April 15, when they dig out from under their mountain of returns. Still, we know a few people, so we went ahead and nagged them for their prime pearls of wisdom. Check them out!

1. Having a home office does not automatically trigger an audit

Few things scare the pants off taxpayers (or accountants, for that matter) like the threat of an audit. Can you imagine pulling together all those receipts? As a result, many people avoid making claims on their taxes that they think will attract unwanted attention from the IRS. Among the most notorious of these supposed red flags is the home office deduction. Why tempt fate?

Yet accountants insist that having a home office does not automatically make you audit material. They also contend that avoiding this deduction, if you deserve it, is a huge mistake—particularly since it allows you to also deduct portions of your utilities, maintenance, and other expenses, dramatically lowering your tax burden. In short, you could save big.

“What drives me crazy is when people don’t take a home office deduction when it’s so easy to do and when they are entitled to it,” says Tom Wheelwright, a CPA and founder ofProVision Wealth Strategists.

To avoid missing out, know the rules. To determine if a home office is deductible, make sure it is an area of the home you exclusively use for business, and that it is your principal place of business (that means you don’t have a second office supplied by your company). Note: In the eyes of the IRS, everything in a home office area needs to be justified as serving a business need. Ditch the PS2 and the lava lamps.

2. Moving is an overlooked money saver

Another easy tax break that homeowners often toss out the window is the cost of a job-related move.

“People never save the receipt,” complains Craig McCullough, a Realtor® and accountant in Washington, DC. And that’s a missed opportunity, since moving fees can be hefty and are usually deductible.

A few caveats: You qualify only if you’ve moved more than 50 miles for your job (or to a new job) and work full-time for at least 39 weeks of the subsequent year. Plus, if your job pays for moving expenses, the reimbursed costs are not tax-deductible.

3. Selling a home too quickly comes at a price

Selling a house comes with its own set of pitfalls—especially if you’re doing so less than two years after purchase.

“You have to be really careful, because if you live in a house for less than two years that’s appreciated in value, the profit of the sale is subject to capital gains taxes,” McCullough says.

So, say you purchase a home in downtown Denver that appreciates nearly 20% over almost two years (totally possible, according to current home pricing trends). If you buy at $200,000 and sell at $240,000, you’ll be subject to capital gains taxes on that $40,000.

“It’s one of the biggest things sellers don’t know about,” he says. “Sellers end up calling their brokerage really mad when they get their capital gains bill.”

4. Deducting your mortgage interest is really worth it

Odds are you’ve heard that you can deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage from your taxes. And maybe you’ve thought, “Why bother? My interest is only 4%, which is a measly amount to deduct.” But here’s what you’re missing: For fixed-rate mortgages, the amount of money you pay per month may stay the same, but the proportion paid to interest changes a lot. In fact, in the early years of a mortgage, “the bulk of that check goes toward interest,” says Elmwood, WI, accountant Martha Hartung.

To find out how much of your mortgage payment is going toward interest, check your monthly statement for a breakdown. But whatever you do, don’t assume it’s too small to be worth mentioning on your taxes. And it’s not just mortgage interest that can help you out come April: If you refinanced your home or received a home equity loan or line of credit, you can deduct interest on up to $100,000 of that debt.

5. Home improvements can lower your tax bill, too

If you’ve made any significant renovations to your home in the past year—or plan to begin a new construction project—make sure to keep an eye on any energy-efficient upgrades you make. You can get a tax credit for improvements such as energy-efficient windows, reflective roofs, and extra insulation, so be sure to talk to your tax accountant about them. While there is a $500 cap on the credit, keep in mind a tax credit directly reduces the amount you owe, compared with a deduction, which simply reduces your taxable income. So this is not something you want to pass up. Trust us.

Selling Your Home? Better Make Sure It’s Clean Before Moving Out

Angela Colley of Realtor.com reminds sellers that it is important to leave your home clean and empty for your new buyers. My favorite piece of advice is “Take everything with you.”


Selling Your Home? Better Make Sure It’s Clean Before Moving Out

Angela Colley

sturti/Getty Images

Let’s face it: Now that you’ve found a buyer and scheduled the closing, you’re ready to be done with your old home. A clean break! The last thing you want to do is spend the weekend deep cleaning the place for someone else to enjoy. Besides, would it even matter?

Actually, yes, it does matter.

We feel for you—the temptation to skip out on those last few cleaning chores is strong. But don’t give in. How dirty you leave your home isn’t just about etiquette—it could also cause problems with the sale of your home.

While buyers may forgive you if you forget to sweep under the stove, more serious offenses can have serious consequences. Check your contract: Some sellers may stipulate that the place be spotless by the time they move in. If you agree to this (verbally or in writing) and don’t live up to your end of the bargain, you could be at risk for a lawsuit.

So if you leave a pile of filth, the new owner could delay closing—or even bail on the sale altogether.

“In a rare case I had someone walk away from the sale because of the condition of the home at the final walk-through,” says Darbi McGlone, a Realtor® in Baton Rouge, LA.

Odds are your buyer will be incredibly stressed out by closing day, and you don’t want to make matters any worse.

“It could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” McGlone says.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s bust out the yellow rubber gloves and get to work.

Work from the top down

When it comes to cleaning, starting early is easiest.

“I recommend doing a good scrubbing and decluttering before putting the house on the market—it can be very stressful to do at the last minute,” says Wendy Wrzos, certified interior redesign specialist and founder of The Blue Giraffe, a home staging and redesign company in New Jersey.

But if you didn’t start early, don’t panic. If you attack the job with a plan, it’ll get done faster. Try to clean room by room, working from the top down.

Dust the ceiling fans, wipe down the walls, and then sweep, vacuum, or mop. Clean the refrigerator (if it’s staying behind), and give a once-over to the oven and stove—including the drip pans. Check the air vents for filth or mold—and if you spot any, call in a professional. This won’t be a standard broom cleaning.

Once you’re done with one space, move on to the next. And don’t forget the details.

“Light fixtures are rarely cleaned,” McGlone says. “Wiping down cabinets and drawers inside and out would be nice also—not many sellers ever do it.​”

Take a deep breath

Cleanliness isn’t the only thing you have to worry about before the final walk-through.

“The first thing buyers always notice when they walk inside is if your home has any less-than-appealing smells, whether it is cat litter, a wet dog, garbage, or the fish you cooked two nights ago for dinner,” Wrzos says.

Reality check: Any strange odors—even if temporary—will make the buyers think the home is dirty. (And they may be right.)

Even if you’ve already moved out, go back into the home for a quick sniff before the walk-through. Bring a friend who might not be as nose-blind to your old home as you are, and ask for an honest opinion.

Air fresheners can minimize lingering odors, of course, but you can also try theseinnovative tips and tricks. When all else fails, call in a deodorization pro. Yes, they exist.

Take everything with you

Many sellers leave behind personal items, because either they think the new owner may get use out of them or they just don’t want to deal with them. But here’s the thing: “No one wants your old shower curtain and matching trash can,” McGlone says.

Unless the buyer specifically asked for something, take everything with you. Double-check attics, basements, storage closets, and the garage for anything you might have missed.