Gunning Daily News

Q: How Do Capital Gains Work when You Sell Your Home?

August 22, 2012 5:38 pm

A: If you sell your primary residence, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of gain – $500,000 for married couples – from your federal tax return. To claim the exclusion, the IRS says your home must have been owned by you and used as your main home for a period of at least two out of the five years prior to its sale.

You also must not have excluded gain on another home sold during the two years before the current sale. However, special rules apply for members of the armed, uniformed and foreign services and their families in calculating the 5-year period.

If you do not meet the ownership and use tests, you may use a reduced maximum exclusion amount. But only if you sold your home due to health, a change in place of employment, or unforeseen circumstances.

If you can exclude all the gain from the sale of your home, you do not report it on your federal tax return. If you cannot exclude all the gain, or you choose not to, you must use Schedule D of Form 1040, Capital Gains or Losses, to report the total gain and claim the exclusion you qualify for.

More Green Tips from the Great Northwest

August 21, 2012 4:48 pm

I recently added another name to the ‘green rolodex’ - Seattle’s own Ally Wangsness, who blogs as the greenhomeadvisor.org. She recently clued me into the City of Seattle Green Home Remodel Guides, which can be accessed via seattle.gov.
In perusing the virtual library of materials I noted a stat that we have cited in previous reports: The right landscape can increase a home’s value by 15 percent (per the Association of Landscape Contractors of America). So we will occasionally visit this resource for ideas about how to improve the look and value of your property.
Here are a few random points from the guide about greening exterior landscaping:
When considering walkways and patios that last and look great, the Seattle guide suggests considering much more than their surface materials. Especially when designing for rain to percolate into the soil below, the surface – and structure below the surface, including sand, crushed rock, etc. – must be carefully prepared.
The guide examines pros and cons of poured ash, broken concrete, permeable or salvaged pavers, wood chips, glass, stone, clay pavers, even – wait for it – nutshells!
According to the guide, recycled nutshells are effective mulch for controlling weeds. And since shells are often burned for fuel, reusing them for mulch and pathways reduces the amount of burning and protects air quality.
If you are committed to using salvaged materials for exterior projects, the Seattle guide says beware lead- based paints, toxic wood preservatives, and other hazards. Ask questions of the person giving away or selling the material; if in doubt, pass on suspect items.
And if you’re looking for maximum water conservation, the guide suggests adding one or more cisterns to your property.
Cisterns store from several hundred to thousands of gallons of water, enough to significantly reduce or even eliminate the need to use municipal water for landscape purposes, especially when combined with the use of water-wise plants. Cisterns can also regulate storm water runoff during winter months, when landscape water isn't needed.
We will look at more universal ideas from this library of Seattle guides in future segments.


10 Unexpected Uses for Coffee Filters

August 20, 2012 6:08 pm

Have an over abundance of coffee filters? Out of paper towels? Bored on a Sunday afternoon? Below is a list of 10 things you can do with your coffee filters, aside from brewing fresh java, of course!

1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave.
2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome... Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.
3. Protect china by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.
4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
5. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.
6. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.
7. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.
8. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.
9. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
10. Use them to sprout seeds. Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a zip-lock plastic bag until they sprout.

Kitchen Knives 101: Choose the Right Knife

August 20, 2012 6:08 pm

Good knives are an essential part of any cook's kitchen. But having a nice set of kitchen knives isn't enough -- you need to know how to use them properly.

Using the right knife for each task helps you prepare ingredients more efficiently, gives your food the appropriate texture, and lets you work more safely. The wrong knife can not only make food prep slower, but messier.

Choosing the right knife, using it safely, and holding it correctly will give you superior control when cutting your ingredients, and give you more confidence in the kitchen.

Types of Knives

These are the basic types of kitchen knives home cooks should have on hand:

Chef - An essential knife for every kitchen. Chop, slice and dice all fruits, vegetables and meat.
Utility - An all-purpose, mid-size knife for chopping and cutting larger fruits and vegetables. A serrated edge is ideal for tomatoes.
Slicer - Cut clean, even slices of meat with the long blade and pointed tip.
Bread - The serrated, scalloped edge is perfect for cutting loaves of bread with hard crusts.
Boning/Filet - Used to trim and carve meats.
Parer - A small knife that gives you control to trim and slice small fruits and vegetables.

Knife Basics

Keep it sharp - Dull blades can slip and cause you to cut yourself. Be sure your knives are properly sharpened at all times.
Get a grip - For maximum control, pinch the blade near the bolster with your thumb and curled index finger and wrap your three back fingers around the handle.
Use it mindfully - In the hustle of preparing a meal, it's easy to get a little careless. After handling a knife, lay it down in a cleared area with the blade away from the body and at safe distance from the edge of the cutting area. Don't reach blindly for a knife; reach deliberately for the handle. And remember; never try to catch a falling knife.

Source: www.chicagocutlery.com.

This Fall, Tackle Invasive Plants

August 20, 2012 6:08 pm

(ARA) - The crisp days of fall will soon be here, but a long dry summer has left many homeowners looking out on lawns and gardens overtaken with invasive weeds and vines. A yard full of these noxious plants is sure to make it difficult to enjoy the cooler outdoor temperatures.

In 2012, the nation faced one of the hottest summers on record in the last 60 years. With more than two thirds of the country experiencing severe to extreme drought, conditions were ideal for pesky weeds to flourish.

Weeds like dandelions, crabgrass and clover easily tolerate hot temperatures and dry soil, overtaking lawns and gardens and lingering throughout the cooler fall months. Ivy and other aggressive vines thrive in the summer heat, climbing and covering bushes and trees and ultimately killing the plants underneath with their shade.

Left untreated, invasive plants can quickly become health and safety hazards. Kudzu can grow up to a foot per day, causing tree limbs to break under its weight, damaging homes and outdoor living spaces. Common grass weeds like nettles and thistles sting and prick the skin, and contact with dangerous plants like poison oak, ivy and sumac cause moderate to severe allergic reactions in almost all people.

"Fall herbicide treatments are the most effective way to eliminate unattractive and potentially harmful plants from lawns and gardens so that those spaces can be enjoyed throughout the cool fall months," says Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), a national organization representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticide and fertilizer products.

"This is the best time of year to eliminate invasive plants," Hobbs adds. "Weeds move the products of photosynthesis like water, glucose and oxygen to their roots for winter food storage in the fall, enabling the roots to soak up herbicides as well." Two to three treatments are usually all that is needed to completely destroy these types of plants.

Effective herbicide options exist for every type of weed and vine. The Environmental Protection Agency rigorously tests herbicides for potential human health and environmental impact before they can be registered and sold for use. As with all pesticides, users should always read labels and use and store products accordingly.

With just one or two follow-up treatments after an initial fall herbicide application, invasive plants are eradicated at the root, and people can take back their lawns and gardens to enjoy the beauty of fall.

Word of the Day

August 20, 2012 6:08 pm

Recording. Entering or recording documents affecting or conveying interests in real estate in the recorder’s office; until recorded a deed or mortgage generally is not effective against subsequent purchases or mortgage liens.

Q: How Does the Seller Determine What Rate to Provide?

August 20, 2012 6:08 pm

A: The interest rate on a purchase money note is negotiable, as are the other terms in a seller-financed transaction. To get an idea about what to charge, sellers can check with a lender or mortgage broker to determine current rates on mortgage loans, including second mortgages.

Because sellers, unlike conventional lenders, do not charge loan fees or points, seller-financed costs are generally less than those associated with conventional home loans. Interest rates are generally influenced by current Treasury bill and certificate of deposit rates.

Understandably, most sellers are not open to making a loan for a lower return than could be invested at a more profitable rate of return elsewhere. So the interest rates they charge may be higher than those on conventional loans, and the length of the loan shorter, anywhere from five to 15 years.

Things to Consider Before Downsizing

August 17, 2012 3:22 pm

Kids off at college? Tired of all that extra real estate maintenance? There are many reasons for considering downsizing your home: you no longer need the space after the children have moved out; you may want to move closer to family; or you may want to move into a condominium to escape more arduous chores such as yard work and snow removal. Before you make the decision to downsize, consider the following:

Decide whether you are ready to move and when you would move.

Have your home appraised to determine the potential proceeds from a sale.

Start looking for opportunities to buy a smaller home. Estimate how much you can save in reduced housing costs, and how much money you should set aside.

Research possible additions to ease life in your current home such as an elevator, or research locations of active adult retirement communities.


Source: BMO Harris Bank

Q: What is seller financing?

August 17, 2012 3:22 pm

A: Also known as a purchase money mortgage, it is when the seller agrees to “lend” money to the buyer to purchase and close on the seller’s home. Usually sellers do this when money is tight, interest rates are high or when a buyer has difficulty qualifying for a conventional loan or meeting the purchase price
.
Seller financing differs from a traditional loan because the seller does not actually give the buyer cash to complete the purchase, as does the lender. Instead, it involves issuing a credit against the purchase price of the home. The buyer executes a promissory note or trust deed in the seller's favor.

The seller may take back a second note or finance the entire purchase if he owns the home free and clear.
The buyer makes a sizeable down payment and agrees to pay the seller directly every month.

Word of the Day

August 17, 2012 3:22 pm

REALTOR®. A real estate broker or agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, a professional real estate group that subscribes to a Code of Ethics. Not every broker or agent is a Realtor, a word that is a registered trademark and always capitalized.