How to Buy a Home in Denver, Colorado

As one of the top five fastest-growing cities in the US, Denver is quickly becoming the place to be. The vibrant city life, the outdoor culture, and the growing economy are attracting numerous people looking to become Denver homeowners.

If you, like many others, have noticed how much this Colorado city has to offer, you might be wondering how home-buying works in Denver. We’ve got you covered. Here’s what every Denverite or potential Denverite needs to know about becoming a homeowner.

Start With a Budget

Before the hunt for your dream home can begin, you’ll need to determine how much you can afford. Get in touch with a lender to talk this through. Your lender will help you determine how much of a down payment you’ll need, as well as what kind of monthly payment you can expect.

Once you speak with a lender, you’ll know what kind of loan you qualify for, and you can narrow down your search to homes within your budget. Now you’re ready to really get serious about finding your future home.

When looking for a lender, many people start with their bank. Your bank isn’t a bad place to start, but don’t forget to shop around for the best rate. If you don’t check out all the options, you might miss out on deals from companies like Homie Loans. Homie Loans guarantees they can get you the best rate possible. In fact, if you find any lender with a better rate, they’ll give you $500 cash*.

Find the Right Agent

Most people work with an agent while buying a home, but not everyone knows how essential it is to find the right agent to work with. The right agent will be experienced and knowledgeable about the highly competitive Denver market.

Your agent should also understand your goals and interests as a prospective buyer. They’ll use their knowledge of your goals with their knowledge of different neighborhood vibes to help you find the perfect fit for you. If easy access to the mountains is one of your priorities, your agent will tell you which cities to look at. If downtown living is your thing, your agent can help you find a good deal in a vibrant, Denver neighborhood.

When you have an expert agent on your side throughout the whole home buying experience, you’ll never have to stress about missing out on important information or getting the bad end of a deal. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle when it comes to real estate, but agents are there to make each step along the way easy on you. That’s why the sooner you bring an agent in to help, the better.

Check Out the Options

Now it’s time to start looking at homes. For many people, this is the fun part of buying a home. Your agent will help you find homes in the areas you’re interested in. It can be a lot of fun to visit potential neighborhoods and imagine yourself as a resident. If a home really catches your eye, don’t be afraid to visit more than once. You want to be sure that it’s the right one for you.

Be sure to be thorough when checking out your options. You don’t need to settle for something you’re not happy with. If you’re not looking for the extra work that comes with a fixer-upper, don’t skip the home inspection. Some homes have issues that you wouldn’t have noticed without an inspection. You want to find a home that’s in great condition.

When you’ve found the perfect home, your agent will help you determine if it’s listed at a fair price. A home could check every box on your wishlist, but if the price isn’t right, it may not be the right one for you. One of your agent’s main jobs is to help you negotiate to get a price that works for you. On the other hand, if the price is where you’d like it, your agent will help jump on that home faster than any of the other potential buyers.

Streamline the Process With Homie

Whether you’re a home-buying veteran or this is your first rodeo, Homie will make your experience the best it can be. Searching for your dream home is a breeze when you have our easy-to-use app.

When you work with Homie, you don’t only get access to the app, though. You’ll also have your very own, top-ranked licensed agent who will help you every step of the way. Our buyers’ agents are dedicated only to their buyers, so you’ll get the best quality service throughout the process.

To get access to amazing homebuying tools and some of the best agents in the state, you might think you’d have to pay top double, but not with Homie. We want to make homeownership accessible to everyone, which is why working with Homie is more affordable than working with any traditional realtor. We offer buyers a refund of up to $2,500 at closing. With those savings and those benefits, buying with Homie is a no-brainer. Click here to start the process.

*Subject to terms and conditions.

Get more tips on buying your Denver home!

5 Tips to Help You Afford Your First Home
Common Home Buying Fears and How To Overcome Them
Can You Buy and Sell a Home at the Same Time?

Want to learn more about buying or selling? Sign up to get more info directly to your inbox!

What are you interested in?

The post How to Buy a Home in Denver, Colorado appeared first on Homie Blog.

Source: homie.com

What Is the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax?

Woman works on her tax returnsEstate planning can help you pass on assets to your heirs while potentially minimizing taxes. When gifting assets, it’s important to consider when and how the generation-skipping tax transfer (GSTT) may apply. Also called the generation-skipping tax, this federal tax can apply when a grandparent leaves assets to a grandchild while skipping over their parents in the line of inheritance. It can also be triggered when leaving assets to someone who’s at least 37.5 years younger than you. If you’re considering “skipping” any of your heirs when passing on assets, it’s important to understand what that means from a tax perspective and how to fill out the requisite form. A financial advisor can also give you valuable guidance on how best to pass along your estate to your beneficiaries.

Generation-Skipping Tax, Definition

The Internal Revenue Code imposes both gift and estate taxes on transfers of assets above certain limits. For 2020, you can exclude gifts of up to $15,000 per person from the gift tax, with the limit doubling for married couples who file a joint return. Estate tax applies to estates larger than $11,580,000 for 2020, increasing to $11,700,000 in 2021. Again, these exemption limits double for married couples filing a joint return.

The gift tax rate can be as high as 40%, while the estate tax also maxes out at 40%. The IRS uses the generation-skipping transfer tax to collect its share of any wealth that moves across families when assets aren’t passed directly from parent to child. Assets subject to the generation-skipping tax are taxed at a flat 40% rate.

This tax can apply to both direct transfers of assets to your chosen beneficiaries as well as assets passed through a trust. A trust can be subject to the GSTT if all the beneficiaries of the trust are considered to be skip persons who have a direct interest in the trust.

How Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Works

Generation-skipping tax rules cover the transfer of assets to people who at least one generation apart. A common scenario where the GSTT can apply is the transfer of assets from a grandparent to a grandchild when one or both of the grandchild’s parents are still alive. If you’re transferring assets to a grandchild because your child has predeceased you, then the transfer tax wouldn’t apply.

The generation-skipping tax is a separate tax from the estate tax and it applies alongside it. Similar to estate tax, this tax kicks in when an estate’s value exceeds the annual exemption limits. The 40% GSTT would be applied to any transfers of assets above the exempt amount, in addition to the regular 40% estate tax.

This is how the IRS covers its bases in collecting taxes on wealth as it moves from one person to another. If you were to pass your estate from your child, who then passes it to their child then no GSTT would apply. The IRS could simply collect estate taxes from each successive generation. But if you skip your child and leave assets to your grandchild instead, that removes a link from the taxation chain. The GSTT essentially allows the IRS to replace that link.

You do have the ability to take advantage of lifetime estate and gift tax exemption limits, which can help to offset how much is owed for the generation-skipping tax. But any unused portion of the exemption counted toward the generation-skipping tax is lost when you die.

How to Avoid Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax

Accountant prepares a tax return

If you’d like to minimize estate and gift taxes as much as possible, talking to a financial advisor can be a good place to start. An advisor who’s well-versed in gift and estate taxes can help you create a plan for transferring assets. For example, that plan might include gifting assets to your grandchildren or another generation-skipping person annually, rather than at the end of your life. Remember, you can gift up to $15,000 per person each year without incurring gift tax, or up to $30,000 per person if you’re married and file a joint return. You’d just need to keep the lifetime exemption limits in mind when scheduling gifts.

You could also make payments on behalf of a beneficiary to avoid tax. Say you want to help your granddaughter with college costs, for example. Any direct payments you make to the school to cover tuition would generally be tax-free. The same is true for direct payments made to healthcare providers if you’re paying medical expenses on behalf of someone else.

Setting up a trust may be another option worth exploring to minimize generation-skipping taxes. A generation-skipping trust allows you to transfer assets to the trust and pay estate taxes at the time of the transfer. The assets you put into the trust have to remain there during the skipped generation’s lifetime. Once they pass away, the assets in the trust could be passed on tax-free to the next generation.

This strategy requires some planning and some patience on the part of the generation that stands to inherit. But the upside is that members of the skipped generation and the generation that follows can benefit from any income the assets in the trust generates in the meantime. Trusts can also yield another benefit, in that they can offer asset protection against creditors who may file legal claims against you or your estate.

Another type of trust you might consider is a dynasty trust. This type of trust can allow you to pass assets on to future generations without triggering estate, gift or generation-skipping taxes. The caveat is that these are designed to be long-term trusts.

You can name your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and subsequent generations as beneficiaries and the transfer of assets to the trust is irrevocable. That means once you place the assets in the trust, you won’t be able to take them back out again so it’s important to understand the implications before creating this type of trust.

The Bottom Line

Man works on his tax returns

The generation-skipping tax could take a significant bite out of the assets you’re able to leave behind to grandchildren or another eligible person. If you’re considering using this type of trust to pass on assets or you’re interested in exploring other ways to transfer assets while minimizing taxes, it’s wise to consult an estate planning lawyer or tax attorney first.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to your financial advisor about how to best shape your estate plan to minimize taxation. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect with professional advisors in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized recommendations for advisors online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Creating a trust can yield some advantages in your estate plan. In addition to helping you minimize tax liability, the assets in a trust are not subject to probate. That’s different from assets you leave behind in a will.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/ljubaphoto, ©iStock.com/baona, ©iStock.com/svetikd

The post What Is the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

The Best Real Estate Advice of 2020: How the Pandemic Transformed Housing This Year

Sisoje/Getty Images; Julie Migliacci; erhui1979/Getty Images; photoman/Getty Images

In some ways, buying a home got a lot easier in 2020, and in a lot of ways, it didn’t. Welcome to the mixed-up, unpredictable, unprecedented pandemic world we’ve all been living through. It’s truly been a year like no other. But no matter which way the pendulum was swinging, realtor.com was here to help you make the best of it.

Whether you were a first-time home buyer house hunting during the pandemic or a seller wondering how to get the best price for your property, we brought expert-approved insights to you all year long.

We’re (finally) just a couple of weeks away from 2021, but to help you head into the new year as a well-informed home buyer, seller, or owner, we thought we’d reflect on the top lessons we learned about real estate this year.

Take a look back at our best real estate advice of 2020, and click each headline to dive deeper into the topics that were top of mind for all of us.

Should I Buy a House During the Coronavirus Crisis? An Essential Guide

Is it safe—and smart—to buy a house during the coronavirus crisis?

erhui1979/Getty Images

As if deciding whether or not it’s time to purchase a home isn’t a tough enough decision, the coronavirus pandemic made everything even more shaky.

Many potential home buyers have been wondering if it’s even safe to shop for a home during a pandemic, and that’s a very fair question. And even if you do succeed in finding a home you like, is this the right time to pull the trigger?

Here’s what our top finance experts had to say about whether now is the time to buy.

Can’t miss tip: Mortgage rates reached historic lows in 2020, but experts believe they’ll rise quickly in 2021. Now may be a good time to buy if you want to lock in those low interest rates.

6 Home Upgrades Buyers Want in the COVID-19 Era

Photo by mercer INTERIOR

It’s no secret to sellers that refreshing the inside and outside of your home is a great way to bring in potential buyers—and multiple offers. But in 2020, the world became a different place, and stay-at-home orders, plus the closures of schools, restaurants, and gyms, made us look at homes much differently.

Knowing they’d be spending much more time at home (working, schooling, exercising, and just about everything else that used to be done elsewhere), buyers started prioritizing features they might have overlooked in the past.

___

Watch: Talking About the Top Real Estate Markets for 2021

___

Find out what new upgrades buyers are seeking in the COVID-19 era—and what formerly hot upgrades are now so 2019.

Can’t miss tip: Home buyers in 2020 and beyond are looking for a place where a lot can happen—and maybe all at once. This means the once-desired open floor plan is now a turnoff, and separation of space is where it’s at.

Is It Safe To House Hunt During the Coronavirus Crisis? This Is What You Must Know

Is it safe to house hunt during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Sisoje/Getty Images

Safety is still top of mind for most active home buyers and sellers.

While the majority of real estate agents are doing everything they can to lessen the risk for their clients, there are still some home buyers who just don’t feel comfortable taking on the process in-person.

Read along as we explain every part of the process that can now be done remotely, and how to make sure it works for you.

Can’t miss tip: A good home-buying experience always starts with choosing the right real estate agent, and it was never more true than in 2020. If you’re looking for a virtual home-buying experience, it’s important to connect with a real estate agent who knows exactly how to make it work to your advantage.

It Just Makes Cents! 7 DIY Home Improvement Projects That Promise Serious ROI

Help improve your chances of making a real estate profit by taking on one of these DIY projects.

photoman/Getty Images

If you found yourself with a little extra time on your hands this year, you may have decided to take on a few DIY home improvement projects. Because you were at home already!

It makes sense, then, that you’d wonder which ones would give you the biggest return on investment—the home projects that will earn you more money when you decide to sell. No one wants to waste their time on fruitless labor, so check out which DIY projects tend to promise the biggest payoff.

Can’t miss tip: It’s not always those giant projects that yield the biggest profit. One expert says bells and whistles don’t always pay off, and instead recommends homeowners take on several, smaller projects for a better ROI.

5 Bad Omens That Could Curse Your Home—and Jeopardize Your Sale

Are you feeling superstitious? These bad omens could hurt the sale of your home.

mediaphotos/iStock

If you’re trying to sell your home, it’s important you take everything into consideration—and we mean everything.

It doesn’t matter if you believe in omens or not. There are a lot of potential home buyers who do, which means seeing a bad token could be a complete deal breaker, no matter how much they love your home.

Click through to find out what some of the more common bad omens are, so you can get to work clearing them out of your space.

Can’t miss tip: Those adorable rocking chairs on your front porch might seem like a warm welcome to you, but if the wind blows and they rock, it may send some home shoppers running. Thankfully, there’s something you can do to keep it from happening, without moving your chairs to the garage.

First-Time Home Buyer Confessions: ‘How We Beat 32 Offers and Got the House’

Here’s how one couple beat out 32 other buyers—without offering the most money.

Julie Migliacci

Every home buyer’s worst nightmare is finding a dream house and having to battle other buyers for it. But what if there were 32 other buyers?

That’s exactly what happened to these buyers, and they came out victorious—even without placing the highest bid. Keep reading to find out exactly how they made it happen.

Can’t miss tip: Today’s real estate market is very fast-moving in many areas, which means there’s very little time (if any) between viewing a house you love and placing an offer. Study up on the neighborhoods you’re shopping in, so you’re ready to make an informed decision on the spot.

5 Coronavirus Real Estate Myths Everyone Thinks Are True—Debunked

coronavirus real estate myths
Don’t believe everything you hear—including these coronavirus real estate myths.

Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

It’s true that COVID-19 has turned the real estate market on its head, but that doesn’t mean you should believe everything you hear. In fact, falling for some of the real estate myths may cause a potential home buyer or seller to miss out on a golden opportunity. Read on to find out what’s being said, and what’s actually factual.

Can’t miss tip: You may have heard that home prices are plummeting because of COVID-19, meaning it’s not a good time to list your house. In actuality, the opposite is true thanks to low interest rates.

5 Weird Reality Checks You’ll Get If You Buy a Country Home

buying a home in the country
Buying a home in the country is not always as peaceful as you might think.

Akabei / Getty Images

Due to the pandemic, this year found many city dwellers moving out of the city into quieter, less populated areas. That means sprawling yards, quiet neighbors, dark nights, and lots of peace, right? Truth be told, country life isn’t always idyllic. In fact, it has some strange quirks that you may not expect.

Find out what happened when one city dweller bought a rural home and discovered that even in the country, things can get weird.

Can’t miss tip: Country living is all about co-existing with woodland critters, so if you move out of the city, be prepared to share your space—both inside and out—with deer, mice, and other wildlife.

The post The Best Real Estate Advice of 2020: How the Pandemic Transformed Housing This Year appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

7 Things to Know Before Taking a Work From Home Tax Deduction

If you’re one of the millions of workers whose home is now doubling as office space due to COVID-19, you may be wondering whether that means a sweet deduction at tax time. Hold up, though: The IRS has strict rules about taking the home office deduction — and they changed drastically under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed in late 2017.

7 Essential Rules for Claiming a Work From Home Tax Deduction

Thinking about claiming a home office deduction on your tax return? Follow these tips to avoid raising any eyebrows at the IRS.

1. You can’t claim it if you’re a regular employee, even if your company is requiring you to work from home due to COVID-19.

If you’re employed by a company and you work from home, you can’t deduct home office space from your taxes. This applies whether you’re a permanent remote worker or if your office is temporarily closed because of the pandemic. The rule of thumb is that if you’re a W-2 employee, you’re not eligible.

This wasn’t always the case, though. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended the deduction for miscellaneous unreimbursed employee business expenses, which allowed you to claim a home office if you worked from home for the convenience of your employer, provided that you itemized your tax deductions. The law nearly doubled the standard deduction. As a result, many people who once saved money by itemizing now have a lower tax bill when they take the standard deduction.

2. If you have a regular job but you also have self-employment income, you can qualify.

If you’re self-employed — whether you own a business or you’re a freelancer, gig worker or independent contractor — you probably can take the deduction, even if you’re also a full-time employee of a company you don’t own. It doesn’t matter if you work from home at that full-time job or work from an office, as long as you meet the other criteria that we’ll discuss shortly.

You’re only allowed to deduct the gross income you earn from self-employment, though. That means if you earned $1,000 from your side hustle plus a $50,000 salary from your regular job that you do remotely, $1,000 is the most you can deduct.

3. It needs to be a separate space that you use exclusively for business.

The IRS requires that you have a space that you use “exclusively and regularly” for business purposes. If you have an extra bedroom and you use it solely as your office space, you’re allowed to deduct the space — and that space alone. So if your house is 1,000 square feet and the home office is 200 square feet, you’re allowed to deduct 20% of your home expenses.

But if that home office also doubles as a guest bedroom, it wouldn’t qualify. Same goes for if you’re using that space to do your day job. The IRS takes the word “exclusively” pretty seriously here when it says you need to use the space exclusively for your business purposes.

To avoid running afoul of the rules, be cautious about what you keep in your home office. Photos, posters and other decorations are fine. But if you move your gaming console, exercise equipment or a TV into your office, that’s probably not. Even mixing professional books with personal books could technically cross the line.

4. You don’t need a separate room.

There needs to be a clear division between your home office space and your personal space. That doesn’t mean you have to have an entire room that you use as an office to take the deduction, though. Suppose you have a desk area in that extra bedroom. You can still claim a portion of the room as long as there’s a marker between your office space and the rest of the room.

Pro Tip

An easy way to separate your home office from your personal space, courtesy of TurboTax Intuit: Mark it with duct tape.

5. The space needs to be your principal place of business.

To deduct your home office, it needs to be your principal place of business. But that doesn’t mean you have to conduct all your business activities in the space. If you’re a handyman and you get paid to fix things at other people’s houses, but you handle the bulk of your paperwork, billing and phone calls in your home office, that’s allowed.

There are some exceptions if you operate a day care center or you store inventory. If either of these scenarios apply, check out the IRS rules.

6. Mortgage and rent aren’t the only expenses you can deduct. 

If you use 20% of your home as an office, you can deduct 20% of your mortgage or rent. But that’s not all you can deduct. You’re also allowed to deduct expenses like real estate taxes, homeowner insurance and utilities, though in this example, you’d only be allowed to deduct 20% of any of these expenses.

Be careful here, though. You can only deduct expenses for the part of the home you use for business purposes. So using the example above, if you pay someone to mow your lawn or you’re painting your kitchen, you don’t get to deduct 20% of the expenses.

You’ll also need to account for depreciation if you own the home. That can get complicated. Consider consulting with a tax professional in this situation. If you sell your home for a profit, you’ll owe capital gains taxes on the depreciation. Whenever you’re claiming deductions, it’s essential to keep good records so you can provide them to the IRS if necessary.

If you don’t want to deal with extensive record-keeping or deducting depreciation, the IRS offers a simplified option: You can take a deduction of $5 per square foot, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. This method will probably result in a smaller deduction, but it’s less complicated than the regular method.

FROM THE TAXES FORUM
Claim innocent spouse with IRS after divorce
wood
Never received my returns
Rachel Sciuto
I forgot
Chance Olwen
See more in Taxes or ask a money question

7. Relax. You probably won’t get audited if you follow the rules.

The home office deduction has a notorious reputation as an audit trigger, but it’s mostly undeserved. Deducting your home office expenses is perfectly legal, provided that you follow the IRS guidelines. A more likely audit trigger: You deduct a huge amount of expenses relative to the income you report, regardless of whether they’re related to a home office.

It’s essential to be ready in case you are audited, though. Make sure you can provide a copy of your mortgage or lease, insurance policies, tax records, utility bills, etc., so you can prove your deductions were warranted. You’ll also want to take pictures and be prepared to provide a diagram of your setup to the IRS if necessary.

As always, consult with a tax adviser if you’re not sure whether the expense you’re deducting is allowable. It’s best to shell out a little extra money now to avoid the headache of an audit later.

The Penny Hoarder Shop is always stocked with great deals, including technology, subscriptions, courses, kitchenware and more. Check it out today!

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

3 Tax Scams You Need to Watch Out For

Becoming a victim of tax scam

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), there was a 400% increase in phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season. And tax scams extend far beyond email and malware to include phone scams, identity theft and more.  While the April 15 filing deadline still feels far away, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Scammers use multiple ploys and tactics to lure unsuspecting victims in. The IRS publishes an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. Sadly, while some of those scams lure people into getting ripped off, others lure people into unwittingly committing tax fraud by falling victim to fake charities, shady tax preparers and false claims on their tax returns.

The most important things you can do to keep yourself scam-free and protected this—and any—tax year are to:

  • Be wary—if it seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • Educate yourself on the most common risks out there
  • File your taxes as early as possible

When you file your taxes as early as possible, you can just politely decline scammer and you can protect yourself from taxpayer identity theft. Tax-related identity theft is primarily aimed at someone posing as you stealing your tax refund. Scammers are creative, sophisticated, persistent and move fast once they have your information in hand. Armed with your Social Security number, date of birth and other pieces of your personally-identifiable information, they can rob you. If you’ve been the victim of a data breach—learn the warning signs—your information is likely available on the dark web. With your information, all a scam artist has to do is log in to a motel’s Wi-Fi network, fill out a fraudulent tax return online and walk away with a refund that could be and should have been yours.

What Is a Tax Scam?

A tax scam is a ploy intended to steal your information and/or your money. It can take several forms. The IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” for 2018 includes these scams:

  • Phishing scams, using fake emails or websites to steal personal information.
  • Phone scams where callers pretend to be IRS agents to steal your information or money.
  • Identity theft scams where identity thieves try and steal your personally identifiable information.
  • Return preparer fraud where a dishonest tax preparer submits a fraudulent return for you or steals your identity.
  • Fake charities where unqualified groups get you to donate money that isn’t actually deductible on your tax return.
  • Inflated refund claim scams where a dishonest tax preparer promises a high refund.
  • Excessive claims for business credits where you or a dishonest tax preparer promises a high refund for claiming credits you aren’t owed, such as the full tax credit.
  • Falsely padding deductions Taxpayers where you or a dishonest tax prepare reports more for expenses or deductions than really occurred.
  • Falsifying income to claim credits where a dishonest tax preparer cons you into claiming income you didn’t earn in order to qualify for tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Frivolous tax arguments where a scam artist gets you to make fake claims to avoid paying taxes.
  • Abusive tax shelters where a scammer sells you on a shelter as a way to avoid paying taxes.
  • Offshore tax avoidance where a scammer convinces you to put your money offshore to hide it as a source of taxable income that you have to pay taxes on.

It’s important to know that if you fall victim, you may not just be the victim. You may also be a criminal and held accountable legally and financially for filing an incorrect return.

A new scam recently hit the wires too. For this one, scammers email employees asking for copies of their W-2s. People who fall victim end up having their names, addresses, Social Security numbers and income sold online. The emails look very valid but aren’t If you see this or other emails that stink like “phish,” email the IRS at phishing@irs.gov

1. Phishing

Phishing uses a fake email or website to get you to share your personally-identifiable information. They often look valid. Know that the IRS will never contact you by email regarding your tax return or bill.

Phishing emails take many forms. They typically target getting enough of your personally identifiable information to commit fraud in your name, making you a victim of identity theft if you take the bait.

Phishing emails may also contain a link that places malware on your computer. These programs can do a variety of things—none of them good—ranging from recruiting your machine into a botnet distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack to placing a keystroke recorder on your computer to access bank, credit union, credit card and brokerage accounts to gathering all the personally identifiable information on your hard drive.

Here’s what you need to know: The IRS will never send you an email to initiate any business with you. Did you hear that? NEVER. If you receive an email from the IRS, delete it. End of story. Oh, and it will never initiate contact by way of phone call either.

That said, there are other sources of email that may have the look and feel of a legitimate communication that are tied to other kinds of tax scams and fraudulent refunds. And not all scams are emailed though. A lot of scammers will call. The IRS offers 5 way to identify tax scam phone calls.

2. Criminal Tax Preparation Scams

Not all tax professionals are the same and you must vet anyone you’re thinking about using well before handing over a shred of your personally identifying information. Get at least three references and check online if there are any reviews before calling them. Also, consider using the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has any complaints against them.

Here’s why: At tax-prep time, offices that are actually fronts for criminal identity theft pop up around the country in strip malls and other properties and then promptly disappear a few days later. Make sure the one you choose is legit!

3. Shady Tax Preparation

Phishing emails aren’t always aimed at stealing your personally identifiable information or planting malware on your computer. They may be simply aimed at getting your attention and business through enticing—and fraudulent—offers of a really big tax refund. While these tax preparers may get you a big refund, it could well be based on false information.

Be on the lookout for questions about business expenses that you didn’t make, especially watching out for signals from your tax preparer that you’re giving him or her a figure that is “too low.”

If you are using a preparer and something doesn’t seem right, ask questions—either directly from the preparer or by calling the IRS. The IRS operates the Tax Payer Advocate Service that can help answer your requests. The service’s phone may be unavailable during a government shutdown, but the website is always available.

Other soft-cons of shady tax preparation include inflated deductions, claiming tax credits that you’re not entitled to and declaring charitable donations you didn’t make. Bottom line: If you cheat—intentionally or unintentionally—chances are you’ll get caught. So make sure you play by the rules and follow the instructions or work with a preparer who does. Yes, the instructions are complicated. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to get honest help if you need it.

As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” Tax season is stressful without the threat of tax-related identity theft and other scams. It’s important to be vigilant, because, to quote Yogi all over again, “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

This article was originally published February 28, 2017, and has been updated by a different author.

The post 3 Tax Scams You Need to Watch Out For appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How to Find a Home in ID

Idaho has some of the best potatoes in the world, but it has more to offer than just that. It’s also dubbed the Gem State, with over 70 precious and semi-precious stones found within its bedrock and streams. The real gems of Idaho are its national parks, friendly people, and a range of real estate deals for buyers looking to maximize value without breaking the bank.

Finding an amazing home in Idaho is easy if you know what to look for and have the top tools and professionals on your side.

What to Look for in an Idaho Home

In Idaho, you can have your pick of beautiful homes and properties with stunning natural backdrops. To narrow down your list, you may want to keep a few things in mind.

Proximity to Employment

The capital of Idaho, Boise, is a major draw for many homebuyers due to its impressive list of corporate and boutique employment opportunities. If you’ve already landed a job at a powerhouse like Boise’s Micron, Hewlett-Packard, Clearwater, IDACORP, or St. Luke’s you will want to look for a home in or around the Boise area. If you haven’t scored a job yet, being close to the city can only help your search and prospects.

With the Homie app, you can narrow down your search using the city or town of your current or future job. Whether you are looking in Boise’s Bench or North End, Garden City, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Kuna or some other area, you can find what you are looking for. You can then collaborate with a Homie agent to decide which homes you may want to make an offer on in Boise.

The Lot the Home Sits On

Even though much of Idaho’s real estate sits on predictable, easy-to-manage land, in some cases, a property could have hidden issues. Keep an eye out for the following when evaluating where your home sits:

  • Setback regulations that may limit where and if you can put on an addition
  • Easements put in place that may limit what you can do
  • How fences, hedges, trees, and other things at the edges of the property sit in relation to the actual, registered boundaries of the lot

Check the Available Utilities

Particularly in the more rural areas of Idaho, you will want to double-check the utilities at your disposal. In the more urban sections of the state, you may have multiple options for handling sewage, as well as heating your home. However, other parts of the state have far fewer choices. It’s best to decide ahead of time how you will deal with:

  • A septic system instead of a town sewer
  • Limited heating fuel options—and the extra expense that may involve
  • Getting a back-up energy source in case there’s a blackout due to a storm and crews are delayed in fixing it

In most cases, any inconveniences can be overcome with a little planning. The more rural sections of Idaho more than make up for it with their natural beauty.

Energy Efficiency

Idaho’s temps can dip below zero degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and push the mercury above 100 degrees in the summer months. To keep comfy, whether you want to be cozy or cool, it’s important to try to find a home that’s energy-efficient. Focus on both the insulation and the mechanical system.

If there’s no information available for the insulation used in the home, you can often gauge its efficiency based on the thickness of the walls. Two-by-six construction tends to be better at maintaining inside temps than two-by-four walls. Likewise, single-pane windows allow more heat loss or gain than a modern dual pane window filled with argon. A quick trip to the attic can reveal the kind of insulation between the roof and living spaces below.

The Importance of Using an Agent

Enlisting the assistance of a Homie agent can make the buying process easier and save you thousands of dollars, not to mention peace of mind. Here are some of the top advantages of using a Homie agent instead of trying to DIY your home purchase.

Getting the Best Deal

Making the right offer is a fine art and skill. Often, a homebuyer may have a number they think reflects the value of the home, but even a thoughtful figure may be skewed by a number of subjective factors. With an agent from Homie, you’ll get a dedicated professional that knows the local area, how its prices have fluctuated over the years, and how well homes tend to hold value.

A local agent from Homie also knows how long properties tend to stay on the market in a given area, as well as the infrastructure and municipal projects in the works that may influence the value—present or future—or a home. With this store of data and insights, a Homie agent can help you nail the best offer and earn you a great deal.

Work With Experienced Professionals

When you work with Homie, you not only get to work with some of the top agents, but Homie also helps you find the best providers for all your needs through Homie Marketplace. The Marketplace is a list of partners that we know do amazing work in things like home inspections, warranties, and moving services.

Finding trusted professionals for each part of the home buying process is essential. A good home inspector will tell you what types of repairs your potential home needs. This important information to have so your agent can help you negotiate a fair price.

You’ll also want a good home warranty to protect against any unexpected issues that might come up after you move in. Instead of hunting all over the place to find each of the providers you need, our Homie team will help connect you with the right people.

Familiarity With Legal and Paperwork Requirements

There’s a lot more to buying a home than writing a check and grabbing the keys. The legal landscape can get tricky, particularly when it comes to the paperwork. Even well-meaning sellers can include clauses in the contract that could put you at a disadvantage.

Work With a Homie

If you’re digging for an Idaho real estate gem, a Homie professional can help you as you prospect for your prize. Whether you’re looking for the perfect starter home, an upgrade as your family grows, or a lovely investment property, your Homie agent will help you score a great deal and have a smooth process. Click here to start working with Homie to find your Boise home today!

For more tips on home buying, check out the articles below!

4 Ways to Outsmart the Competition When Buying a Home
5 Tips to Help You Afford Your First Home
Common Home Buying Fears and How To Overcome Them

Want to learn more about buying or selling? Sign up to get more info directly to your inbox!

What are you interested in?

The post How to Find a Home in ID appeared first on Homie Blog.

Source: homie.com

We Want to Retire to Florida or a Florida-Type Atmosphere and Buy a Condo With Lots of Amenities for $250,000—Where Should We Go?

Retirement locales in Florida and South CarolinaGetty Images

Dear MarketWatch,

My wife and I are looking to retire in three years from New Jersey to Florida or a Florida-type atmosphere — warm weather, no snow!

We will be getting around $5,000 from Social Security monthly and will have a little over $1 million spread among savings/401(k)/house equity. We want to buy a condo for about $250,000 that has all the extras like pools, restaurants, social activities and near the beach.

Can you make any suggestions?

Thanks,

Marty

Dear Marty,

With 1,350 miles of coastline in Florida alone, never mind the rest of the South, you have many possibilities for your retirement. But as you can imagine, properties closest to the beach are more expensive, so “near the beach” may involve some compromise.

I started my search with Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.) and its picks of affordable beach communities, but didn’t stick to it exclusively.

My three suggestions are just a starting point. No place is perfect, not every development will have all the amenities you want, and every town has its own personality, so you may want to think about what else is important to you. You also may want to consider gated communities and townhomes, not just multistory condominium buildings.

As you narrow down your list, I recommend you visit at least twice — once in the winter to experience the crowds in high season and once in the summer to understand what southern humidity is like. It’s worse than in New Jersey.

Think about how you will build your new social network, even with all the social amenities in your condo building. Don’t rule out the local senior center or the town’s recreation department.

Consider renting for the first year to test it out to make sure you’ve picked the right area.

Then there are the money questions. The last thing you need is a surprise.

You’ll have condo fees; they can be quite high, particularly in a high-rise building along the beach. What do they cover and what don’t they cover? How much have fees been rising over, say, the past 10 years? How does the board budget for bigger repairs? More broadly, are you OK with the condo association’s rules?

Ask about the cost of both flood and wind insurance given that the southern coastline is regularly threatened with hurricanes. That’s on top of homeowner’s insurance. Or are you far enough inland that you can get away without them?

Walk into the tax assessor’s office to try for a more accurate tax assessment than your real-estate agent may give you. And since this would be your primary residence, ask about the homestead exemption.

And don’t forget that you’re trading your New Jersey heating bill for more months of air conditioning; what will that cost?

Finally, three years isn’t that far away. Start decluttering now. That’s hard work, too.

Here are three coastal towns to get you started on your search:

Venice, Florida

Venice Beach pier
Venice Beach pier

frankpeters/iStock

This town of nearly 25,000 on the Gulf Coast is part of the Sarasota metro area, deemed by U.S. News & World Report to be the best area in the U.S. to retire. Venice is 25 miles south of Sarasota and its big-city amenities; it’s 60 miles north of Fort Myers, the runner-up in the U.S. News listing.

It also made Realtor.com’s list of affordable beach towns for 2020.

This is a retiree haven — 62% of residents are 65 and over, according to Census Bureau data.

While you can always travel to the nearby big cities, when you want to stay local, see what’s on at the Venice Performing Arts Center and the Venice Theatre. Walk or bicycle along the 10.7-mile Legacy Trail toward Sarasota and the connecting 8.6-mile Venetian Waterway Park Trail to the south. The latter will lead you to highly ratedCaspersen Beach.

Temperature-wise, you’ll have an average high of 72 in January (with overnight lows averaging 51) and an average high of 92 in August (with an overnight low of 74).

Here’s what is on the market right now, using Realtor.com listings.

Boynton Beach, Florida

Boynton Beach condos
Boynton Beach condos

Carl VMAStudios/Courtesy The Palm Beaches

On the opposite side of the state, smack between Palm Beach and Boca Raton, is this city of about 80,000 people, plenty of whom are from the tri-state area. More than one in five are 65 or older.

Weather is similar to that in Venice: an average high of 73 in January and 85 in August.

Boynton Beach is in the middle of developing the 16-acre Town Square project that will include a cultural center and residential options, among other things. Still, this is an area where one town bleeds into the next, so whatever you don’t find in Boynton Beach, you’ll probably find next door.

At the western edge of town is the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, 145,000 acres of northern Everglades and cypress swamp. The Green Cay Nature Center is another natural attraction.

You can also hop Tri-Rail, a commuter train line that runs from West Palm Beach to the Miami airport with a stop in Boynton Beach, when you want to go elsewhere. The fancier Brightline train is adding a stop in Boca Raton to its existing trio of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami; the current plan is for a mid-2022 opening.

This city has many amenity-laden retirement communities, and the median listing price for condos and townhouses fit your budget, according to Realtor.com data. Here’s what’s on the market now.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, FL
Myrtle Beach, FL

Kruck20/iStock

If you’re ready to look beyond Florida, Myrtle Beach, S.C., with nearly 35,000 people, made Realtor.com’s 2018 and 2019 lists of affordable beach towns, and Murrells Inlet, just to the south and home to just under 10,000 people, made the 2020 list. The broader Myrtle Beach area, known as the Grand Strand, extends for 60 miles along the coast.

Summer temperatures in Myrtle Beach are a touch cooler than Florida; an average high of 88 in July, with lows averaging 74.

A word of warning: In the winter, average overnight lows get down to around 40, and average daytime highs reach the upper 50s. Is that acceptable, or too cold?

Myrtle Beach boasts of its low property taxes, especially when combined with the state’s homestead exemption. While you may think of the city as a vacation destination, 20% of residents are 65 or older. (Nearly 32% of Murrells Inlet residents are seniors.)

Here’s what’s for sale now in Myrtle Beach and in Murrells Inlet.

The post We Want to Retire to Florida or a Florida-Type Atmosphere and Buy a Condo With Lots of Amenities for $250,000—Where Should We Go? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com