12 Arrowwood Court South Portland Maine

12 Arrowwood Court South Portland Maine
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Radon Gas Mitigation: Let’s Breathe Easy

By: Jan Soults Walker Published: March 25, 2011

Take steps immediately to reduce radon gas buildup if your home tests high. Knowing the available radon mitigation methods and costs will help you make the best choice.
Investment Med $800-$2,500 (system install)

A heat recovery ventilator, which introduces fresh air into a tightly sealed house, is one way to reduce radon levels. Image: VeloBusDriver/Flickr

If you’ve tested and determined elevated levels of radon gas in your home, don’t worry. Radon mitigation methods can reduce levels by 99%, allowing you to breathe easy.

Reducing radon: Simple strategies

If radon test results indicate that levels in your home are only slightly elevated—less than 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air):

Caulk cracks or gaps in the slab, foundation, or framing—wherever your home contacts soil—to inhibit radon gas infiltration. This step also improves the success of other radon reduction strategies.

Open exterior crawl space vents to increase air flow and dilute radon buildup.

Install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). An HVR introduces fresh, air-conditioned air into homes that are otherwise tightly sealed.

Reducing radon from unsafe levels

If radon levels inside your home test at 4 pCi/L or higher, enlist the services of a professional contractor who is trained in radon mitigation strategies. Contact your state radon office for a list of contractors in your area who are trained and certified in radon reduction techniques. Obtain several bids.

Professional radon mitigation options

Some of the systems used for reducing radon are:

Soil suction. A special vent fan draws radon from soil beneath your home through pipes that dispel gas into the open. Negative pressure created by the suction further inhibits the buildup of gas. Fans run 24/7, and are usually guaranteed for up to 10 years of continual operation.

Sub-membrane suction. Considered the most effective strategy for homes with crawl spaces, sub-membrane suction employs a high-density plastic sheet atop the soil. A fan draws radon gas out through vent pipes located beneath the plastic.

Passive and active ventilation. Ventilating a crawl space or adding additional vents may also reduce radon gas. Opening vents is passive ventilation; adding a fan is active. When employing either of these methods in a colder climate, you may need to add insulation in a crawl space to prevent pipes from freezing.

Costs for radon mitigation

Prices for radon mitigation vary depending on the extent of the work being done, but range between $800 and $2,500. The average cost nationally is $1,200 to $1,400.

As a rule, a house built on a slab or with a basement requires less labor, resulting in the lowest costs for radon reduction. Radon reduction in a house over a crawl space tends to be most expensive since a vapor barrier may be required.

Homes with any combination of slab, crawl space, and/or a basement fall in the middle range for costs.

Another budget consideration: As you ventilate radon gas from your home, energy costs increase—either from releasing air that’s been heated or cooled, or from you operating a fan full-time. Using an HRV to ventilate helps reduce waste.

With four home renovations to her credit, Jan Soults Walker is a devotee of improvements, products, and trends for the home and garden. For 25 years she’s written for a number of national home shelter publications, and has authored 18 books on home improvement and decorating.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/articles/radon-gas-mitigation-lets-breathe-easy/#ixzz1I6ISYprx

Friday, March 25, 2011

Buyers' and Sellers' Closing Costs

Fullerton, CA Realtor® Adam Brett reminds buyers and sellers that it is always smart to know what they are getting into with real estate transactions.

“Selling your home may seem that simple but there are taxes, fees, insurance and other expenses that buyers and sellers must prepare for.

I compiled a list of the traditional distribution of expenses associated with real estate. Certain regions of the country and even within the State of California (Northern and Southern), vary in these customs. Keep in mind that many of these items are negotiable by both parties at the time of the offer, excluding some expenses required by the lender to be paid specifically by the seller.

The BUYER typically pays:

Notary Fees

Escrow Fees

Document preparation (if applicable)

Recording charges for all documents in buyer’s name

Termite Inspection

Tax Proration

Homeowner’s transfer fee

All new loan charges (except those required by lender for seller to pay)

Interest on new loan from date of funding to 30 days prior to first payment date

Assumption/Change of Records fees for take-over of existing loan

Beneficiary Statement fee for assumption of existing loan

Other Inspection fees (roofing, property inspection, geological, etc)

Home Warranty

Lender’s policy

Fire Insurance Premium for first year

The SELLER typically pays:

Real estate commission

Escrow fees

Notary fees

Title Insurance Premium: Owner’s Policy

Any bonds or assessments

Recording changes to clear all documents of record against seller

Any unpaid homeowner’s dues

Tax proration (for any taxes unpaid at time of transfer of title)

Any judgments, tax liens, etc. against the seller

Home warranty

Termite Work and Inspection

Statement Fees, reconveyance fees, and any prepayment penalties

Interest accrued to lender being paid off

Payoff of all loans in seller’s name (or existing loan balance if assumed by buyer)

Any loan fees required by buyer’s lender

Document preparation fee for deed

Applicable city transfer/conveyance tax

County documentary tax (55 cents per $500 of consideration, exclusive of the value of any lien or encumbrances attaching to the property at time of sale)

This is pretty much the most comprehensive list of things I can think of. I also would like to know your experiences and if any, issues arising about who pays for what.”

Read more blog posts by Adam Brett.

See more tips, checklists, and resources at the First Time Home Buyers home page at  REALTOR.com

Read more: Who Pays for What in Home Sale?
REALTOR.com® Blogs

Sunday, March 20, 2011

10 Common Errors Home Owners Make When Filing Taxes

10 Common Errors Home Owners Make When Filing Taxes

By: G. M. Filisko

Published: January 25, 2011

Don’t rouse the IRS or pay more taxes than necessary—know the score on each home tax deduction and credit.
Watch out for the common tax-filing errors, and you'll get a maximum return without raising any red flags with the IRS.
As you calculate your tax returns, consider each home tax deduction and credit you are—and are not—entitled to. Running afoul of any of these 10 home-related tax mistakes—which tax pros say are especially common—can cost you money or draw the IRS to your doorstep.

Sin #1: Deducting the wrong year for property taxes

You take a tax deduction for property taxes in the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind—that is, you’re not billed for 2010 property taxes until 2011. But that’s irrelevant to the feds.

Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in 2010, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, tax manager at the Cincinnati accounting firm of Burke & Schindler, has seen home owners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.

Sin #2: Confusing escrow amount for actual taxes paid

If your lender escrows funds to pay your property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed, says Bob Meighan, CPA and vice president at TurboTax in San Diego. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two.

For example, your tax bill might be $1,200, but your lender may have collected $1,100 or $1,300 in escrow over the year. Deduct only $1,200. Your lender will send you an official statement listing the actual taxes paid. Use that. Don’t just add up 12 months of escrow property tax payments.

Sin #3: Deducting points paid to refinance

Deduct points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage in full for the year you bought your home. However, when you refinance, says Meighan, you must deduct points over the life of your new loan. If you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $133 per year.

Sin #4: Failing to deduct private mortgage insurance

Lenders require home buyers with a downpayment of less than 20% to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI). Avoid the common mistake of forgetting to deduct your PMI payments. However, note the deduction begins to phase out once your adjusted gross income reaches $100,000 and disappears entirely when your AGI surpasses $109,000.

Sin #5: Misjudging the home office tax deduction

This deduction may not be as good as it seems. It often doesn’t amount to much of a deduction, has to be recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your home, and can pique the IRS’s interest in your return. Hampton’s advice: Claim it only if it’s worth those drawbacks.

Sin #6: Missing the first-time home buyer tax credit

If you met the midyear 2010 deadlines, don’t forget to take this tax credit into account when filing.

Even if you missed the 2010 deadlines, you still might be in luck: Congress extended the first-time home buyer credit for military families and other government workers on assignment outside the United States. If you meet the criteria, you have until June 30, 2011, to close on your first home and qualify for the tax credit of up to $8,000.

Sin #7: Failing to track home-related expenses

If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. Many people forget to track home office and home maintenance and repair expenses, says Meighan. File away documents as you go. For example, save each manufacturer’s certification statement for energy tax credits, insurance company statements for PMI, and lender or government statements to confirm property taxes paid.

Sin #8: Forgetting to keep track of capital gains

If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to pay capital gains taxes on any profit. However, you can exclude $250,000 (or $500,000 if you’re a married couple) of any profits from taxes. So if you bought a home for $100,000 and sold it for $400,000, your capital gains are $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains. However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523.

Sin #9: Filing incorrectly for energy tax credits

If you made any eligible improvement, fill out Form 5695. Part I, which covers the 30%/$1,500 credit for such items as insulation and windows, is fairly straightforward. But Part II, which covers the 30%/no-limit items such as geothermal heat pumps, can be incredibly complex and involves crosschecking with half a dozen other IRS forms. Read the instructions carefully.

Sin #10: Claiming too much for the mortgage interest tax deduction

You can deduct mortgage interest only up to $1 million of mortgage debt, says Meighan. If you have $1.2 million in mortgage debt, for example, deduct only the mortgage interest attributable to the first $1 million.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Readers should consult a tax professional for such advice, and are reminded that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who was once mortified to receive a letter from the IRS—but relieved to learn the IRS had simply found a math error in her favor. A frequent contributor to many national publications including AARP.org, Bankrate.com, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/articles/10-common-errors-home-owners-make-when-filing-taxes/#ixzz1HAheMM6y

Friday, March 11, 2011

Landscaping for Curb Appeal

By: Pat Curry
Published: March 25, 2010

A well-landscaped yard creates curb appeal and helps your property retain maximum value. Here are a few tips and tricks for sprucing up your outdoor spaces yourself.

If you're installing outdoor lighting on your own, remember to highlight the areas you want people to see. Image: CoeStudios.com

A beautiful yard is a head-turner, no doubt about it. The good news is that even if you can’t tell a tulip from a turnip at the garden center, you can still create eye-catching curb appeal by paying attention to the basics of good landscaping. Ignoring your yard—or doing something that’s out of character with the neighborhood—can jeopardize the assessed value of your home.

“We have several categories for design and appeal,“ says Frank Lucco, a real estate agent and professional appraiser in Houston. “That’s where we make those adjustments. Poorly maintained landscaping can be as much as a 5 or 10% deduction.”

Appraisers are quick to praise the allure of a well-tended lawn and good-looking landscaping when it comes time to sell your home, but most do not assign any specific increase in monetary value for upkeep.

“Landscaping is going to add to the appeal of the property and it may sell quicker, but it’s hard to determine value,” says John Bredemeyer, president of Omaha-based Realcorp. “You have to have a number to compensate someone if you drove into their tree and killed it, but is it really market value? Probably not.”

Nevertheless, most professionals agree that curb appeal and a well-maintained appearance prevent your property from losing value. Here are the top suggestions from real estate agents, appraisers, and landscape designers for boosting the curb appeal of your yard:

Green up the grass

If your house has a front yard, make sure it‘s neat and green. You don’t want bare spots, sprawling weeds, or an untrimmed appearance.

“It’s so simple to go to Home Depot, buy fertilizer, apply it every six weeks, and water it,” says Mitch Kalamian, a landscape designer in Huntinginton Beach, Calif. “It will green up.”

If the yard looks really scruffy, you may decide to invest in some sod. According to the National Gardening Association, the average cost of sod is 15 to 35 cents per sq. ft. If you hire a landscaper to sod your yard for you, labor will add 30% to 50% to the total cost of the project.

Another alternative is to plant low-maintenance turf grasses. Turf grasses are durable and drought-resistant. Expect to pay $18 to $30 for enough turf grass seed to plant 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area.

Add colorful planting beds

Flower beds add color and help enliven otherwise plain areas, such as along driveways and the edges of walkways. In general, annual flowers are a bit cheaper but must be replaced every year. Perennials cost a bit more but come back annually and usually get larger or spread with each growing season.

If you’re not sure what to plant, inquire at your local garden center. Often, they’ll have a display of bedding plants chosen for their adaptability to your area. Also, they‘ll be inexpensive because they’re in season, says Peter Mezitt, president of Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Mass. Try pansies in the summer, and asters and mums in the fall to add vibrant color. “That’s what we do around the entrance to our garden center,” Mezitt says.

Valerie Torelli, a California REALTOR® who dresses up her clients’ yards to sell their houses faster and for more money, says that in her market, she can put in a bed of colorful annuals and bark, as well as cutting down overgrown shrubs, for less than $500. “We can buy gorgeous plants for $3.99 to $15.99,” she says.

Add landscape lighting

For homeowners who have made a sizeable investment in landscaping, it makes sense to think about adding another 10% to 15% to the bill for professional lighting. “You can’t see landscaping after dark,“ says Brandon Stephens, vice president of marketing for a landscape lighting firm in Lubbock, Texas, “and buyers are not always looking at houses on a Saturday afternoon.”

The cost of a system runs from $200 for a DIY installation to more than $4,000 for a professional job. If you‘re doing it on your own, the key is to light what you want people to see, such as mature trees and flowering shrubs.

Plant a tree

The value of mature trees is particularly difficult to determine. Lucco says that in his market, mature trees contribute as much as 10% of a $100,000 property’s overall value. In addition, a properly placed shade tree can shave as much as $32 a year on your energy bills. Expect to pay $50 to $100 for a young, 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree.

You can make your own initial assessment of the value of your property’s trees by visiting the National Tree Benefit Calculator. For example, a mature Southern red oak tree with a diameter of 36 inches in the front yard of a house in Augusta, Ga., would add $70 to the property value this year, according to the calculator.

Georgia-based freelance writer Pat Curry writes extensively about housing and real estate for consumer and trade publications. While a fair hand at remodeling, she is hopeless as a gardener. As a result, her landscaping is made up of plants that thrive on neglect.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/articles/landscaping-curb-appeal/#ixzz1GLnp2MRP

Thursday, March 10, 2011

101 Things I Love about Portland Maine

148. Stonyfield Cafe~`Located in Falmouth Maine, this restaurant makes fresh and delicious soups, salads and sandwiches.  Today's soup was apple and squash.  http://stonyfieldcafe.com/

Monday, March 7, 2011

101 Things I Love about Portland Maine

147. Wild Burrito's at 574 Congress St., Portland, ME 04101, (207) 761-1600~~This Mexican restaurant is reasonable and offers yummy food in very colorful and funky surroundings.  Try their rice and bean combos.