12 Arrowwood Court South Portland Maine

12 Arrowwood Court South Portland Maine
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rent VS Own

Sponsored by Chase Mortgage Banking. Review their resources to help you find and finance your home.

Homebuyers get a host of tax benefits that renters don’t — critical deductions that can lower your overall tax bill.

But how much do homeowners really save on their taxes? Using 2012 IRS data, the most recent available, we calculated that a homeowner who took the average for each of four tax benefits would claim $15,871 in home-related deductions (if he or she itemizes).

1.  The interest they pay on a mortgage

2.  The points they pay on the mortgage

3.  The cost of all property taxes

4.  The cost of insuring their mortgage

Those are just the start: If Congress renews a long-standing tax credit in 2015, some homeowners can also shave their tax bill by up to $500 by making their homes more energy efficient. (The alternative minimum tax can affect whether you can claim homeowner-related tax benefits. Consult your tax adviser for advice regarding your situation.) And years from now, when they sell their home, most of them won’t owe taxes even if they pocket up to one-half million dollars in profit, unlike other investments that typically are taxed at 15% or more.

Renting still makes sense for many, particularly when you’re in transition. But you can’t deduct rent on your income taxes. That’s why it’s important to consider the tax benefits when you consider the advantages of buying vs. renting.

Before you continue — watch to find out if renting remains right for you:

Homeowners Can Deduct the Interest They Pay on Their Mortgage (Average deduction: $9,540*)

The mortgage interest deduction lets homeowners deduct the interest on their home mortgage up to $1 million ($500,000 if you’re married filing separately).

In the first few years of a mortgage, about two-thirds of the monthly mortgage payment is interest. That can translate to a hefty tax deduction.

For example, with a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4%, you’ll pay about $8,000 in interest the first year you own your home. Deducting that interest will save you $2,000 if you’re in a 25% income tax bracket ($8,000 x 0.25 = $2,000).

Since renters don’t have mortgages, they don’t get the mortgage interest deduction. The landlord gets the benefit while the renter typically pays the cost.

Homeowners Can Deduct Discount Points When They Buy (Average deduction: $611*)

When you buy a home, you can lower your interest rate by purchasing discount points.

Each point typically costs 1% of the loan amount, but you may be able to deduct that cost. So if you take out a $200,000 mortgage and buy one discount point for $2,000, you’d get a one-time $500 tax savings, assuming you’re in the 25% tax bracket ($2,000 x 0.25 = $500). Plus, you’ll be lowering your monthly mortgage payment because your interest rate will be lower.

Homeowners Can Deduct Property Taxes (Average deduction: $4,420*)

All homeowners pay taxes to their local jurisdictions, such as the county, city, or school district. Those property taxes are fully deductible. Renters aren’t eligible for a property tax deduction, even though their rental payments often help fund the property taxes their landlords pay. But only the landlord can take the deduction since he’s the owner.

A Tax Deduction That Helps Offset the Cost of Buying First Home (Average deduction: $1,300*)

Most first-time homebuyers want to make the smallest downpayment possible because saving up for it is one of the toughest hurdles to homeownership. A loan guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA, or FHA can help you buy a home with as little as 3.5% to 5% down instead of the typical 20%.

If you put down less than 20%, though, you’ll likely be required to buy mortgage insurance.

The good news: You probably earned another tax deduction. The cost of mortgage insurance is deductible, based on income limits. You can deduct the full cost if your income is less than $100,000, and some of the cost if your income is between $100,000 and $109,999.

Note: The mortgage insurance deduction expired at the end of 2014, and Congress has yet to renew it for 2015. In past years, Congress has renewed it late in the year or early in the following year.

The Biggest Tax Benefit Homeowners Get

The capital gains exclusion is probably the biggest of all the tax benefits homeowners enjoy. Plus, they can use it more than once (but not more than once every two years) to be exempt from paying taxes on profits of up to $500,000 (filing jointly) from selling their home.

Balance this benefit with investing in stocks and bonds. Unless those investments are in a Roth IRA or some other tax-free account, you’ll likely pay capital gains tax of at least 15% on your profit when you cash in those assets. A $500,000 profit in the stock market is typically going to mean you’d owe $75,000 in capital gains taxes.

Tax Credit for Going Green?

One more possible benefit: If Congress renews a long-standing benefit for 2015, you may also be able to claim up to $500 for making your home more energy efficient.

tax credit is even better than a tax deduction because you use a credit dollar-for-dollar to offset what you owe in taxes. So if you owed $500 in federal taxes and you could claim a $100 tax credit, you’d have to pay only $400 in taxes.

Although getting several thousand dollars in deductions is a terrific benefit, it’s only part of the financial boost you get as a homeowner. Once you buy, you’ve locked in your monthly housing costs — no rent increases — and in the future, you end up with a valuable asset: a paid-for home.

* IRS, “SOI Tax Stats - Individual Income Tax Returns Publication 1304 (Complete Report);” Basic Tables: Exemptions and Itemized Deductions, Table 2.1: Returns with Itemized Deductions: Sources of  Income, Adjustments, Itemized Deductions by Type, Exemptions, and Tax Items 2012, available here.

The thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed are not intended as tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for advice regarding your situation.
Dona-DeZube Dona DeZube
has been writing about real estate for more than two decades. She lives in a suburban Baltimore Midcentury modest home on a 3-acre lot shared with possums, raccoons, foxes, a herd of deer, and her blue-tick hound. Follow Dona on Google+.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Green Cleaning Products for the Bathroom

Grimy grout. Moldy showers. Smells you’d rather not talk about. Given its frequent exposure to moisture, not to mention calls of nature, the bathroom needs to be one of the most frequently sanitized rooms in the house. But if you rely on conventional commercial products for your lavatory clean-ups, not only are you paying big bucks but you’re also bringing some of the harshest chemicals on the market into this small, often poorly ventilated space. The combination makes the bathroom a prime candidate for a green cleaning products.

Environmentally friendly doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, however. While there are many sustainable off-the-shelf options, safe and effective cleaning solutions also can be mixed at home for pennies from common household ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. Here’s a tip sheet for transforming your bathroom from chemically contaminated to green and clean.
Showers & Baths
A serious bathroom-cleaning hazard is the accidental combination of bleach and ammonia, common ingredients in different all-purpose cleaners. On their own, each is unhealthy to breathe in and can seriously irritate skin. Combined, however, they can create a dangerous plume of chlorine gas, says Eric Richter, chemist for the Atlanta-based Ecodiscoveries. You can avoid this toxic reaction by staying away from conventional cleaners, or at the very least carefully scrutinizing labels.
Another harmful chemical found in conventional all-purpose cleaners is 2-butoxyethanol. It belongs to a group of grease-cutting industrial solvents called glycol ethers, which are easily absorbed through the skin and have been linked to reproductive problems and birth defects in animal studies. “It’s just overkill in a bathroom, where your biggest problems are toothpaste in the sink or soap residue in the shower,” says Ali Solomon, director of communications for the environmental organization Women’s Voices for the Earth
Solomon says you can save the $4-$5 you’d spend buying chemical concoctions at the store by making your own all-purpose cleaner for your shower enclosures or baths. Mix equal parts water and vinegar, then heat in a glass bowl. You can also add several drops of a disinfecting essential oil like orange or lemon, she says, to improve the smell and boost germ-fighting power. Food-grade vinegar runs about $4 for a 64-ounce bottle; that’s $1 per 32-ounce batch of cleaner.
The commercially available cleaners for your porcelain throne contain some of the nastiest stuff you can buy. Mary Findley, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning,” says you can skip chemicals like bleach, ammonia, hydrochloric acid, and naphthalene, and still score a white, clean toilet.
Add about half a cup of a green all-purpose cleaner like Biokleen’s ($5 for 32 ounces) to the toilet, then sprinkle baking soda into the bowl. If you want extra bleaching power, substitute hydrogen peroxide for the all-purpose cleaner. The one-two punch will transform your toilet for pocket change compared to the $3-$6 you’d shell out for a bottle of the conventional stuff.
Put away the $6 you’d spend buying industrial-grade acids when you’re trying to dislodge a hairball. Instead, pour a half-cup of baking soda down the drain, and follow with a half-cup of vinegar. Cover and let it set for at least 30 minutes, then flush with boiling water. If that doesn’t work, try an enzyme-based cleaner like Nature’s Miracle, which contains eco-friendly microbes that eat away at clogs, or buy a $5 plunger and dislodge the clog manually.
Sinks & Vanities
Many sink problems, from leftover toothpaste to stray makeup splotches, can be cleaned with hot water and a natural dishwashing soap like those from Mrs. Meyer’s ($4.50 for 16 ounces). If you want to disinfect, try Women’s Voices for the Earth’s green all-purpose cleaner recipe, or what Solomon calls the Creamy Soft Scrub.” It’s a mix of baking soda, castile soap, and essential oils that will foam up and clean away dirty sink and vanity problems. Castile soap retails for about $15 for a 32-ounce bottle. You can use the soft-scrub mix all over the house, and castile soap can double as a body wash or shampoo.
Mirrors & Glass
Pour on the vinegar to clean glass and mirrors, Findley says. Add a quarter cup of vinegar to a 32-ounce spray bottle, and fill the rest of the way with distilled water. Spray on and wipe with an old newspaper rather than a cloth or paper towel to prevent stray threads and towel bits from remaining on your glass. Your mirrors will be streak- and particulate-free, and for significantly less money than if you’d shelled out the $5 for a regular glass cleaner.
Tile & Grout
Tile grout’s prickly texture tends to invite dirt, mold, and scum. The soft-scrub mix is a good option, Solomon says. To mop tile floors, whip up a batch of water and vinegar-based all-purpose cleaner. In the shower, if you’re dealing with moldy grout, try borax. A 76-ounce box costs about $6.50. One cup of borax in one gallon of water with a stiff-bristled sponge should help scour mildew from your shower grout.
Very few synthetic fragrances found in cleaners and air fresheners have been tested for human toxicity, Richter says. You can avoid the risk (and the $3 a spray air freshener will cost) by simply using common sense and ventilation. To freshen a stinky bathroom, turn on outside-vented fans or open windows, when possible. Otherwise try the age-old trick of sticking an open box of baking soda in your lavatory. It costs less than $1, and it sucks unpleasant smells right out of the air.

Alyson McNutt English
writes regularly about home improvement, decorating, and “green home” tips; her work has appeared in magazines like Pregnancy, Kiwi, and Parenting and on many websites, including BobVila.com and HGTV.com.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/green-cleaning/green-bathroom-cleaning-products/#ixzz3dAgnjSsM
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Local Theater--Dramatic Repertory Co

Portland has lots of theater going ops.  This was a really interesting play at a small venue--well worth it!

101 Things I Love about Portland Me

Very relaxing, comfortable wine bar with delicious tastes like the olive tapenade and Gruyere toast,

Best Money-Saving DIY Projects (and Tips for Doing Them Right

Best Money-Saving DIY Projects (and Tips for Doing Them Right)

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You’re going to save money with DIY home improvement projects. Sure, everybody knows that.

But did you know how much? Cut professionals out of the equation and you can save half the cost of a project — or more. On a minor bathroom refresh, that could be up to $10,000.
What’s more, you get a great return on your investment. Meaning, the financial value you get out of a DIY project is much more than what you put in.

Of course there are projects where pro installation is going to be much faster and safer, and worth the price of a hiring a contractor. Major exterior improvements, such as replacing roofing and siding, are prime candidates.

And granted, there are tasks where a pro is invaluable. Personally, I have years of DIY experience, but I still won’t touch electrical work with a 10-foot insulated pole.

Nevertheless, going DIY is the ultimate money-saving tool. You’ll also get tons of satisfaction and enjoyment from creating a better home environment, and from learning home improvement skills that’ll last a lifetime.

Here’s a rundown of some top money-saving projects, using cost and return-on-investment figures from “Remodeling” magazine’s annual “Cost vs. Value Report.”

But before we get to that, let’s swat aside some concerns. Or go straight to the projects.

What If You Don’t Have the Skills?

Sorry, not buying it. How-to tutorials are everywhere. Check out YouTube for video instructions on everything from taking out a toilet to tiling your shower stall. In addition:
  • Most major manufacturers have tutorials on their websites. If you’re looking to install a particular product, check out the horse’s mouth for videos and PDF instructions.
  • Big box home improvement centers run clinics on installing tile, building decks, paint finishes, and more — free. Spend an hour or so at a clinic to learn direct from professionals.
  • Yes, physical books still exist. Buy new, or head down to your local library for free how-to books you can keep for weeks. (Yes, they still have overdue fines!)
What If You Don’t Have the Time?

That’s the trade-off. Your time (and labor) is going to stand in for cash out of your pocket. If you truly don’t have the time, then DIY probably isn’t for you.

The next best move is to BIY your project — buy-it-yourself. With a BIY project, you do the research, shopping, and purchasing of materials and save the contractor’s markup. You need to work closely with your professional to make sure you agree on what stuff you’ll be buying, and what is still the contractor’s responsibility.

Related: Save 20% When You BIY Instead of DIY

The Best Money-Saving Projects With Great ROI

Deck Addition

A 12-foot-by-16-foot wood deck addition is a straightforward project, especially if you keep the design simple (rectangular) and use concrete piers instead of poured concrete footings (check your local codes). Even a set of simple stairs can be tricky, so take your time with measurements. If you botch your first attempt, know you’re in good company, and try again.
If You Hire If You DIY 
What You Get Back When You Sell*$8,085What You Get Back When You Sell*$8,085
Return on Investment


Return on Investment


*Source: “Remodeling” magazine “Cost vs. Value Report

You can probably build a 12-foot-by-16-foot DIY deck in three to four days over two weekends. If you’re using poured footings instead of precast piers, you’ll need to wait two or three days for the concrete to cure. Having a buddy definitely helps move things along, but might cost you extra for pizza and beer.

Minor Bathroom Facelift

A typical guest bathroom is about 5 feet by 7 feet, so let’s bring that up-to-date by installing a new tub, toilet, ceramic tile floor and shower surround, updating the shower valve, and adding a new vanity, sink, and counter. Spruce it all up with moisture-proof vinyl wallpaper.

You’ll do everything but the plumbing connections, so add $380 for a pro plumber (four hours at $95 per hour).

Installing ceramic tile is one of the more challenging — and rewarding — DIY projects. Study those tutorials first, and get the right tools. Rent an electric tile saw for $50 to $75 per day; but note that you can buy an acceptable tile saw at a home improvement center for less than $100.
If You Hire If You DIY 
What You Get Back When You Sell*$11,707What You Get Back When You Sell*$11,707
Return on Investment


Return on Investment


*Source: “Remodeling” magazine “Cost vs. Value Report

Plan for six to eight days of work, spread over however long you can stand to be without your bathroom. You’ll need the better part of two days for the tile alone, and a day to let the tile adhesive set.

Entry Door Replacement

No other project gives as much return as a new steel entry replacement door. Not only is it a cost-effective project with one of the highest returns in the Cost vs. Value Report, but you get the added benefit of sprucing up your curb appeal.

Know your door parts (jambs, threshold, stops) before digging in. You’ll be putting in a pre-hung door that includes jambs, so the old stuff has to come out. If you can, preserve the old casing (trim) that goes around the door. Otherwise, plan to buy new casing.
If You Hire If You DIY 
What You Get Back When You Sell*$1,252What You Get Back When You Sell*$1,252
Return on Investment


Return on Investment


*Source: “Remodeling” magazine “Cost vs. Value Report

This is a good one to have a buddy or spouse lend a hand. It’ll take six to eight hours if it’s your first time. Remember the three-legged mantra of door installation: Plumb, level, square.

Related: Choosing an Exterior Door

Garage Door Replacement

Tired of looking at that big blank billboard every time you pull into your driveway? Change out your old garage door for a spiffy new steel model and the whole neighborhood will thank you. Save some cash by keeping the same motorized opener.
If You Hire If You DIY 
What You Get Back When You Sell*$1,410What You Get Back When You Sell*$1,410
Return on Investment


Return on Investment


*Source: “Remodeling” magazine “Cost vs. Value Report

A steel garage door comes in four panels that are relatively lightweight but awkward — get a friend to lend a hand and you’ll have this project done in a day.

Vinyl Window Replacement

If you want to replace four or more windows, or a second-story window, then hire the work out. Being up on a ladder with an object as bulky as a window is no place for a non-professional. Pros bring scaffolding, which takes time to set up but ultimately makes the work faster and safer.

Replacing one, two, or maybe three first-story windows is a good DIY job. Anything more and the pros will get the job done with better efficiency in terms of time and hassle.
If You Hire If You DIY 
Cost (per window)$1,120Cost (per window)$250
What You Get Back When You Sell*$816What You Get Back When You Sell*$816
Return on Investment


Return on Investment


*Source: “Remodeling” magazine “Cost vs. Value Report

If you’ve measured your rough opening correctly and bought the right window, then one window should take you three to four hours. You’ll get faster with subsequent windows.

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John_Riha John Riha
has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Follow John on Google+.

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