Swing into Spring


Six Great Walks Around Tacoma

Titlow Beach

Tacoma is full of beauty. Whether you wander the waterfront or find yourself following a fern-lined trail in a forest, the walking routes around our city and neighborhoods are sure to bring you a deeper appreciation for our corner of the Puget Sound.

oly orthoWhile there are hundreds of places to walk that are absolutely perfect, we decided to put together a list of six of our favorite trails and walks in Tacoma.

Ruston Way

We start with this classic and well-known stretch of sidewalk that runs between Ruston Way and Commencement Bay. Full of restaurants and viewpoints, places to rent bikes and spots to sit and watch the seals, this iconic path is perfect in so many ways – as a fun sunny day wandering destination or a great place to stretch the legs after sitting in the office all day. The entire length of Ruston is seven miles in length round trip. For the best views, go down here on a clear day around sunset and look toward Mount Rainier.

Snake Lake
The trails at Snake Lake are well-maintained and easily accessible as the park is right in the center of Tacoma. Photo credit: Kristin Kendle

Snake Lake

The trails at Snake Lake weave through 71 acres of preserved forests and waterways, helping make it a fantastic family destination or post-work walking area. Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset, Snake Lake’s two miles of trails have two small foot bridges to cross, a good loop around the lake and an upper trail that will get you some elevation. With each step along the shady and cool trail, watch for birds sitting in the trees or swimming on the water. When crossing bridges, watch for turtles and even salamanders in the water as you make your way around this small, but ideal trail system.

Narrows Bridge Walkway
Crossing the Narrows Bridge on foot is an amazing way to see the beauty of the region. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

We have all probably driven over the Narrows Bridge once or twice, but have you walked it yet? Part of the larger Scott Pierson Trail, this five-mile trail crosses the Puget Sound, giving stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier and the waters below. The trail is paved, easy to follow and is both dog and family-friendly, making it a perfect destination for everyone. If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of orca or humpback whales as they swim in the waters below, but you’ll most certainly catch sight of seals far below if you look carefully.

Titlow Beach
Full of sweeping views and stellar trails, Titlow Beach is a family-friendly walking destination that is fun all year. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

Titlow Park

While many visitors stick to the short boardwalk and shores of Titlow Park, the trails here are much more expansive. Within eyesight of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Titlow’s two miles of trails wander through forests and along the rocky shores of Puget Sound. Open from just before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, walking Titlow allows you to choose your own adventure – walk along the beach, through the trail system in the forest or simply stroll around the pond or on the boardwalk. Titlow is also a great place to see birds, starfish (when the tide is out) and maybe even a whale! The sunsets here are pretty amazing, too.

Swan Creek Hiking Trails
Hike the Swan Creek Trail if you enjoy elevation gain and a bit of a workout, as well as beautiful forest scenery. Photo credit: Kristin Kendle.

Swan Creek

Swan Creek isn’t too well known, but it should be. Located in East Tacoma, between Portland Avenue and River Road, Swan Creek Park is another fantastic trail system for those hoping to walk in the woods. Combining elevation with access to a salmon-bearing stream and both level and pleasantly challenging trails, you have two fantastic options for mileage and relative solitude in the forests in this often overlooked park. Your best walking route will be to start at E. 56th Street and get on the Swan Creek Trail, which runs for nearly two and a half miles before heading back on the mile-long Canyon Rim Trail. You can also park at the park’s main entrance on Pioneer Road, where you’ll enjoy more level trails to start.

Chambers Bay
Known for stunning views and three miles of walking paths, Chambers Bay is a great walking destination. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

Chambers Bay

Finally, we end with yet another classic walking destination for residents of the region. While not technically in Tacoma, the short drive to University Place makes this an incredibly convenient and gorgeous place to get some steps in. Home to amazing sunsets, incredible views and over three miles of trails and pavement to walk, exploring Chambers Bay by footis a great workout with amazing rewards. With the expanse of the Olympic mountains visible in the distance, the paths around Chambers get you up on bluffs, on bridges and next to the seal filled waters. There are few places as beautiful and as open as Chambers Bay, giving you unrivaled views to the west and allowing you to forget about the stresses of life.

Leslie Sells Houses

Titlow Beach

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Tax Breaks for First Time Home Buyers

What exactly is tax deductible when buying a house for the first time?

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Buying a home can sound like an intimidating undertaking if you’ve never done it before. The thought of relocating and the sheer level of financial investment gives many people anxiety. Luckily, the government wants to make the process easier and less scary, with a range of tax breaks for first time home buyers.

To get the most out of your purchase, don’t settle for the standard deductions and write-offs. Instead, make sure you take advantage of the many tax breaks available to you. So, what exactly is tax deductible when buying a house for the first time?

Mortgage Interest Deductions

Mortgage interest is the second half of your monthly mortgage payment—the rest goes toward the principal balance. Though interest rates are hovering near historic lows, they can still be a financial burden unless you take advantage of the option to deduct mortgage interest on up to $1 million of debt.

Claiming this tax break is easy. Each year, your lender will send you Form 1098 listing the interest you paid during the previous year. Simply enter this number on Form 1040 Schedule A—under itemized deductions—and claim your tax break.

Mortgage Points Deduction

Beyond the typical interest deduction, you’re eligible for a tax break based on mortgage points—prepaid interest that represents 1 percent of your total mortgage. You are allowed to deduct Discount Points, or the fees paid directly to the lender in exchange for a reduced interest rate. This is also called “buying down the rate.”

Mortgage Credit Certificate Program

A tax credit for buying a house is more valuable than a deduction because it cuts back on your taxes owed, dollar-for-dollar. For low-income home buyers, the Mortgage Credit Certificate program gives back 20% to 30% of the interest you pay every year as money back in your pocket.

You will need to qualify for the Mortgage Credit Certificate program before purchasing your home to claim this credit.

Real Estate Taxes

Each year, you can deduct your local property taxes on Form 1040 Schedule A. To find the amount you can deduct, check Form 1098 if you pay through an escrow account or check your records if you pay directly to the municipality.

Additionally, for the first year in your home, you should earn an even bigger tax reduction. If you reimbursed the seller for their prepaid real estate taxes, you can take those as itemized deductions as well.

IRA Payouts

If increased investment opportunity is one of the reasons for buying a home, then you’ll appreciate this benefit for your IRA. If you pull from your IRA to cover your down payment and other purchasing costs, first time home buyers do not have to pay the $10 penalty fee for early withdrawals.

Additional First Time Home Buyer Advantages

  • Home Improvements: If you purchase a fixer-upper, all improvements you make to your home from landscaping to new doors and windows can be deducted when you sell your home.
  • Energy Efficiency: Upgrading your home with energy-efficient appliances and home improvements—such as an insulation system—can offer an energy tax credit of up to $500.
  • Home Sale Profit: If you own and live in your home for at least two years before selling, much of the profit you make is tax-free. Up to $250,000 for single returns and up to $500,000 for married, joint returns.
  • Mortgage Insurance Premiums: This tax deduction ended in 2016 but is currently under legislative review for renewal. It offers a write-off for the premium paid if your down payment was less than 20% of the home’s cost.

The First-Time Homebuyer Credit is no longer available. It ended in 2010 and has not been renewed.

Now that you know the many tax breaks for first time home buyers, visit your local real estate agent at Coldwell Banker to learn how to take advantage of all the perks of being a first time home buyer.


The Lazy Guide to Spring Cleaning at Home

No one likes spring cleaning (except maybe Danny Tanner) but here are some easy ways to get the job done quickly,

Guest post by Andrea Davis

After a long winter, nothing feels better than having a clean and sparkling home. But, actually jumping into a deep clean is another story. Here are some simple tips to whip your home into shape without breaking a sweat:

#1 Wall Cleaning

Magic Eraser is your best bet for tackling walls — it can spot clean anything from splatters to crayon marks. It’s tough enough to reach the cobwebs that collect in the corners of your walls and ceiling. You can also cover the bristles of a broom with a cloth or old T-shirt and use it to knock down any dusty spots.

#2 Carpets and Rugs

Take a little more time vacuuming the high-traffic areas of your house. (Make sure you don’t forget to spot treat any stubborn stains with a stain-removal product.) If your rug or carpet has lingering odors, sprinkle some baking soda over it and let it sit for a few hours. Vacuum up the baking soda and you’ll find the odors have disappeared.

#3 Mattress Ideas

Give your mattress cover a thorough cleaning in the washing machine — don’t forget to throw in a cup of white vinegar to boost the cleaning process. Sprinkle baking soda on your mattress while you’re washing the cover. You can vacuum it up later when you’re making the bed.

#4 Shower Care

Don’t knock yourself out trying to clean glass shower doors. Add a couple drops of water to your dryer sheets and use them to wipe down your shower doors. You can even let your showerhead clean itself overnight while you sleep. Simply tie a bag filled with white vinegar around your showerhead and let it soak overnight. Remove the bag in the morning for a non-clogged shower experience.

#5 Toilet Scrubbing

Have water stains built up in your toilet? Cola can help you attack these stains with little effort.  Just pour some in the toilet, let it sit for several minutes, then flush.

#6 Oven Shine

If you have an oven with a self-cleaning feature, spring is a great time to finally run that cycle. Otherwise, mix baking soda with a bit of water and use it to quickly clean up grease and various other spills inside the oven.

#7 Clutter Solutions

When you don’t have time to clean but you need your house to look presentable, tackling clutter is the quickest way to create the illusion of a clean house. Zip through each room of the house and put anything that doesn’t belong into a basket. This strategy requires very little work and can make a big difference in your home’s appearance.


Although these tips won’t completely eliminate the effort involved in spring cleaning, they’ll make the job a whole lot easier. Spring is a time of new beginnings — if you use even a couple of these ideas, your home will enjoy a clean and fresh start to the upcoming season.

Leslie Sells Houses


Simple Landscaping Upgrades to Attract Prospective Buyers

Image result for pictures of landscaping with craftsman house with daffodils

Here are a few simple upgrades to help boost your curb appeal.

Guest post by James Witts

A home can be modern and cozy inside, but without curb appeal, potential buyers will lose interest before they step inside. An attractive, well-kept lawn is one of the first things people will notice. The good news is that upgrading an existing lawn doesn’t have to take months, and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Here are a few simple upgrades to help boost your curb appeal.

Remove Weeds 

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If weeds have gained the upper hand, pulling is still the tried and true method for getting rid of weeds in a hurry. If the act of pulling the weeds won’t do the trick, you’ll need to attack them with an herbicide. Always use chemicals strategically and make sure to use the correct amount–different weeds require different treatment.



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Take a stroll around your lawn and pick up anything that doesn’t belong. Take a wheelbarrow if you have a lot of branches, twigs or other debris. Pick up children’s toys and gardening tools. Put hoses away, or invest in an attractive roller.


 Image result for pictures of seeds growing

Rake over brown spots to remove dead grass, then spread grass seed. For a more enhanced effect, aerate the soil before overseeding to help break up the soil and allow nutrients to get to the root of the grass more efficiently.


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Taller grass stays green longer than short grass. Set your mower relatively high and take a little off the top every three to five days. Be sure the blade is sharp. A dull blade tears the grass and leaves ragged, brown edges.


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Nitrogen-rich fertilizer will green up your lawn quickly, make sure to use the right amount according to your soil and grass type. A little nitrogen is a good thing, but too much may damage your lawn. Limit this trick to once or twice a year. Be sure and water well immediately after applying any type of fertilizer.

Iron is also helpful in turning a drab grass into a lush and healthy green lawn. Mineral supplements can be inexpensive and can be found at your local garden center or nursery.

Freshen up

Image result for pictures of mulch types

Refresh any flower beds around your lawn by laying down a new think layer of mulch. The deep tones of fresh mulch will help compliment the more potent hues within the rest of the landscaping, making everything else pop. Fresh mulch is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t take too much time to apply yourself.

You can also consider investing in an inexpensive edger to smooth out and even out the edges of your lawn. This is a quick and easy way to make your landscaping look trim and neat.

Add color

Image result for pictures of adding color to your gardens

Flower beds and container gardens are a great way to add a pop of color into your landscaping. Plant a few cheerful annuals such as geraniums, petunias or marigolds. Clean up an exterior furniture or give it a fresh coat of paint. Don’t be afraid to use bright, bold colors.


James Witts is an eco-conscious home improvement writer. He is constantly trying to find new ways to live off the grid while living in a tiny home with his wife, Andie. 


A New Housing Bubble Forming…Not Before 2024

A recent report by CoreLogic revealed that U.S. home values appreciated by more than 37% over the last five years. Some are concerned that this is evidence we may be on the verge of another housing “boom & bust” like the one we experienced from 2006-2008.

Recently, several housing experts weighed in on the subject to alleviate these fears.

Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac Chief Economist

 “The evidence indicates there currently is no house price bubble in the U.S., despite the rapid increase of house prices over the last five years.”

Edward Golding, a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center

 “There is not likely to be a national bubble in the way that we saw the first decade of the century.”

Christopher Thornberg, Partner at Beacon Economics

 “There is no direct or indirect sign of any kind of bubble.”

Bill McBride, Calculated Risk

 “I wouldn’t call house prices a bubble.”

David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices

 “Housing is not repeating the bubble period of 2000-2006.”

A recent article by Teo Nicolais, a real estate entrepreneur who teaches courses on real estate principles, markets, and finance at Harvard Extension School concluded that the next housing bubble may not occur until 2024.

The articleHow to Use Real Estate Trends to Predict the Next Housing Bubble, looks at previous peaks in real estate values going all the way back to 1818. Nicolais uses the research of several economists. The article details the four phases of a real estate cycle and what defines each phase.

Nicolais concluded his article by saying:

“Those who study the financial crisis of 2008 will (we hope) always be weary of the next major crash. If George, Harrison, and Foldvary are right, however, that won’t happen until after the next peak around 2024. 

Between now and then, aside from the occasional slow down and inevitable market hiccups, the real estate industry is likely to enjoy a long period of expansion.”

Bottom Line

The reason for the price appreciation we are seeing is an imbalance between supply and demand for housing. This has created a natural increase in values, not a bubble in prices.

Leslie Sells Houses

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SELL 5 Sweet Tax Deductions When Selling a Home: Did You Take Them All?


Are there tax deductions when selling a home? You bet—and they can amount to sizable savings when you file with the IRS. So whether you’re selling your home soon or sold it last year, you’ll want to know all the tax deductions (not to mention tax exemptions or other write-offs) at your disposal.

Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know, plus a preview of what’s in store once the new tax code takes effect next year.


1. Selling costs

“You can deduct any costs associated with selling the home—including legal fees, escrow fees, advertising costs, and real estate agent commissions,” says Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax and Consulting in Rockville Center, NY.

This could also include home staging fees, according to Thomas J. Williams, a tax accountant who operates Your Small Biz Accountant in Kissimmee, FL.

2018 tax changes: These deductions are still allowed under the new tax law.

2. Home improvements and repairs

Did you renovate a few rooms to make your home more marketable? Super—they probably helped you fetch a higher sales price, and now you can deduct those upgrade costs as well. This includes painting the house, repairing the roof or water heater, or anything that remains useful past a year.

But there’s a catch, and it all boils down to timing.

“If you needed to make home improvements in order to sell your home, you can deduct those expenses as selling costs as long as they were made within 90 days of the closing,” says Zimmelman.

2018 tax changes: None.

3. Property taxes

If you were dutifully paying your property taxes up to the point when you sold your home, you can deduct the amount you paid in property taxes for the time you owned it.

2018 tax changes: This deduction is still allowed, but your total deductions are capped at $10,000, Zimmelman says. You may be able to avoid this cap if you prepaid your 2018 taxes and if your property was assessed  in 2017, but estimated assessments won’t qualify.

4. Mortgage interest

As with property taxes, you can deduct the interest on your mortgage (up to a maximum of $1 million) for the portion of the year you owned your home.

2018 tax changes: New homeowners (and sellers) can deduct the interest on up to only $750,000 of mortgage debt, though homeowners who got their mortgage before Dec. 15, 2017, can continue deducting up to the original $1 million amount, according to Zimmelman.

5. Moving expenses

If you sold your home in 2017 in order to move for a job change, you can deduct those expenses.

2018 tax changes: Lawmakers eliminated this deduction for most of us. However, members of the armed forces on active duty can still take the deduction.

But what’s up with capital gains tax for sellers?

This one isn’t technically a deduction (it’s an exclusion), but you’re still going to like it. As a reminder, capital gains are your profits from selling your home—whatever cash is left after paying off your expenses, plus any outstanding mortgage debt. And yes, these profits are taxed as income. But here’s the good news: You can exclude up to $250,000 of the capital gains from the sale if you’re single, and $500,000 if married. The only big catch is you must have lived in your home at least two of the past five years.

2018 tax changes: None. Lawmakers tried to change this rule, but it managed to survive—so it’s still one home sellers can cherish. However, look for this to possibly change in a future tax bill.

Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified and vice president at Residential Home Funding, says lawmakers would like to change this so that homeowners would have to live in the property for five of the past eight years, instead of two out of five.

Leslie Sells Houses


Home Improvements that Pay Off

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3 areas that can skyrocket your home value.

While there are many things you can do to increase the value of your home, such as sprucing up the landscaping and giving the exterior a fresh coat of paint, there are a few specific areas that can truly skyrocket your home value, and they are explained here.

The kitchen is appropriately called the “heart of the home” as it is the focal point of the house, and it needs to shine.  If your kitchen needs a complete remodeling, consider doing it as you will recoup the expense put into this important area.  However, even minor renovations can make a big impact aesthetically and on the value overall.  You can give the cabinets a fresh coat of paint, replace the older appliances with modern, streamlined ones, and put in a new stove with induction cooking.  This will give the kitchen a fresh, new look, and will get you a better price when you are ready to sell.

Another area that can greatly increase the value of your home is the master, specifically the master bathroom and closet.  Buyers do not want to settle when it comes to the master.  A great house with an outdated master bathroom and small, disorganized closet cannot get the sales price it deserves.  It is worth splurging on beautiful marble and high-end fixtures for the master.  Bathrooms can be completely renovated for less than you would imagine.  So, get a few estimates from contractors and architects-you may be surprised that it is much more affordable than you thought, and it will greatly increase the appeal and value of your home.

A beautiful pool.  While buyers can of course put these in once they purchase the home, most buyers do not want to deal with the headache of a project and many will even eliminate your home from their search simply because it is missing a pool.  Most people buying a home in Miami imagine a pool in their backyard, so do yourself a favor and either fix up your existing pool or build a new one.

Leslie Sells Houses




Home and the Love of People

Homes are about people, and that’s why I love to help people find their home.

Image result for pictures of craftsman homes with people standing

WHEN it comes to owning a home, few people in the world pursue the dream with as much vigor, desire or penny-pinching thrift as Americans.

Even though the national home-ownership rate has been dropping since 1980 and millions have been squeezed out of the housing market, a higher percentage of people in the United States still own their own homes than in most other industrialized nations. In many ways, owning a home has become the norm for Americans, with 64 percent of households already members of the club and most of the rest of the population anxiously trying to get in.

No single reason adequately explains why so many people pursue this goal, but today, probably more than ever before, the essential motivation is an economic one: The housing they live in has become, for most households, a solid investment. Today’s buyers are pursuing that goal with the avidity of of Wall Street arbitragers, and their houses have become not so much good places to raise families – although that still is important – as the bases from which to raise fortunes.

”Stabilty and security, those used to be the key factors,” said Marc A. Weiss, an urban planner with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, an independent, non-profit research and educational institute in Cambridge, Mass. ”Now there’s more anxiety in terms of investment value.”

Mr. Weiss, who is writing a history of home ownership called ”Own Your Own Home,” to be published next year, explained that for previous generations, comparative housing costs also were carefully weighed by potential buyers. Owning could be comparable to renting, or sometimes be an even better deal. ”But the primary motivation,” he said, ”was not ‘what do we do with our capital.’ ”

Attitudes have changed for a number of reasons. Inflation spiraled through the 1970’s, while house prices appreciated like runaway trains in parts of the country (especially the Northeast and West). And a run on available units that started when the bulk of the postwar baby-boom generation entered the housing market has helped to drive up prices even further.

Through all of that it became increasingly clear that a family’s physical shelter could be its financial shelter as well.

The Federal Government’s policies encouraging home ownership have not abated. Owners continue to be allowed to deduct their mortgage interest as well as their local property taxes from their Federal income taxes.

Profits on the sale of a house or apartment go untaxed so long as the seller simply buys another home of equal or greater value within two years, thus helping a family to avoid taxes while building equity.

People who are 55 or older get a one-time exemption on the first $125,000 of capital gains should they decide to buy a smaller, less expensive house or to move into a rental apartment. And the appreciated value remains untaxed when property is passed along to the next generation within a family.

Under the recent tax-code revisions, deductions attached to owning a house were not changed and now they represent the largest group of tax breaks available to most individuals. A house also ends up being a continuing capital resource; owners can take out equity loans based on the built-up value in their homes, and the interest on those loans in many instances also is tax deductible.

For most families, a house is the centerpiece and predominant part of the household wealth. A recent analysis by the Chicago Title & Trust Company shows that home ownership, as an investment, contines to be a good deal. Even with modest inflation of 5 percent a year, a typical house will be worth more at the end of a 30-year mortgage than the purchase price plus all interest, taxes and insurance combined.

The Chicago Title study figured a house purchased for $133,400 in 1987 would be worth $549,100 in the year 2015. If prices were to increase over that period by the same average 8.1 percent annual rate of the last decade, that same $133,400 would be worth $1.18 million in 2015.

Calculations like these can turn buyers’ heads from the hearth to the pocket. But there also have been societal changes as well to affect how Americans feel about owning a house.

IN an increasingly mobile society, home ownership no longer anchors people to the land as it once did. Buyers, especially those just entering the market, move almost as often as renters, buying a house, holding it for a few years, then selling it at a profit and buying something bigger. No longer are buyers tied to 30-year mortgages; risky adjustable rate loans have become more popular because in many instances the holders sell the house and pay off the loan before its term is up.

This revolving door has left some neighborhoods reeling. Owners come and go so rapidly, driving up prices with each transaction, that a block of single-family houses can be as transient as an apartment-building floor and residents end up not being able to afford the house in which they live.

This cycle is especially true in fringe neighborhoods balancing on the edge of gentrification. When Charles Watts and Helen Haynes bought their three-bedroom, Victorian-style house in Dorchester, Mass., a changing section of Boston, last June, the previous owner had been there just two years. Only one house on the block had been owned by the same person longer than two years.

Mr. Watts, a 24-year-old administrative assistant at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and his wife Helen, also 24 and a freelance illustrator, knew they needed more space when they moved to Dorchester from a Providence, R.I., apartment, and they savored the idea of the privacy of their own home and the tranquillity of a residential neighborhood.

”But the financial considerations, building equity and stuff, had more emotional implications for us,” Mr. Watts said.

Renting the two-bedroom apartment they needed – one bedroom was to serve as an office – would have cost the young couple at least $850, a lot of money paid out and never seen again.

”The issue was,” Mr. Watts said, ”do we leave the money in Treasury bills or take a gamble on this house.”

While they would be able to swing the monthly mortgage payments, Mr. Watts and Ms. Haynes would have had trouble rounding up a sufficient down payment without a $30,000 gift from Mr. Watts’s parents. So many other young buyers have had to rely on the same source for help in making their down payments that the practice has come to be known as the new G.I. Bill – the initials in this instance standing for good in-laws.

IN the end, Mr. Watts and Ms. Haynes put a $60,000 down payment on the $155,000 house, which left them with monthly payments of $860, roughly the same as their projected rent. But now they have office space, a basement, attic and even a small garden, as well as their foundation for financial security. Their first night in the new house, Mr. Watts said, he and his wife celebrated their good fortune by eating potato salad in bed and watching TV.

Mr. Watts said he is still anxious about owning a home. Is the neighborhood going to continue improving, or will the drug problems a few blocks over infiltrate his block as well? What happens if his wife gets a job offer in Alaska? Will they be able to afford going out to dinner?

He and his wife are among the lucky few of their age group able to jump on the home ownership bandwagon. For many other young people – along with, increasingly, the poor – the wagon is quickly receding and leaving them behind.

According to figures from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, the overall decline in home ownership rates has been slight compared to the new reality for young people. For all households, the ownership rate dropped to 64 percent in 1987 from the 50-year-peak of 65.6 percent in 1980, a slight but significant decline because it came during a sustained housing recovery.

However, those changes bear much less importance than the subsets for age groups. Here the record shows what young people have had to confront as they have tried to attain the same standards of living as their parents. From age 24 to 39, there has been a dramatic 7 to 8 percentage point drop in home-ownership rates. What this means, according to the Harvard study, is that 2 million households that would have been able to buy a house or apartment in 1980 cannot afford to do so today.

”People are struggling real hard to get in,” said William C. Apgar, Jr., the author, with H. James Brown, of the Harvard housing study. Mr. Apgar explained that while rapidly rising dwelling prices help those who already own by expanding their equity investment, it severely restricts first-time buyers. Those shut out remain renters, driving up rents and short-circuiting their chances of saving enough for a down payment. But that does not keep them from trying to get their dream house.

The reality today is that many couples may have to wait longer than they expected to buy that first home, building up job security and personal savings until the numbers work.

Michael T. Cranwell, a 35-year-old captain with the Union City, N.J., Fire Department, and his 29-year-old-wife Imma are just now timidly testing the waters of home ownership. Expecting their first child in November, they are just about to close on a two-bedroom, expanded Cape Cod in Hackensack costing $155,000. On paper, they have figured they will be able to afford the house, and the baby, and the loss of one salary. But they remain anxious.

”I get knots in my stomach thinking about the money here,” said Mr. Cranwell. Like Mr. Watts in Dorchester, Mr. Cranwell had to rely on his family to help with the down payment. In his case, his mother and father in-law contributed $10,000 toward the $25,000 down payment. The Cranwells monthly mortgage payment will be $1,214, about double the rent they paid for their one-bedroom apartment.

Mr. Cranwell figures that to afford the house, his wife will have to return to her job as an assistant in a New York City physician’s office after the baby comes, even though they both would prefer that she not have to travel that far. But they are willing to make the sacrifices required.

”It makes me feel real married,” Mr. Cranwell said about buying a house. ”It’s a good move, a foot in the door. But it’s a little scary. I’ll have to learn how to use a hammer better than I do. Hopefully, one year from now I’ll be able to say I made one good deal.”

History suggests that ought to be the case. According to one study, 42 percent of all household wealth in the United States is in owner-occupied housing. ”Compared to the stock market,” said Mr. Apgar of Harvard, ”home-ownership wealth is enormous.”

DANA AND MICHAEL ALLENSWORTH of Broward County, Fla., have already decided that for them, homeownership is the key to financial security. Mrs. Allensworth, 26, and her 24-year-old husband both work for the same aviation company in Fort Lauderdale. For the first two-and-a-half years of their marriage they rented an apartment, but searched for the right house to invest in.

Last March they found what they were looking for – a three-bedroom, two-bath single family house in the sprawling Weston development under construction about 15 miles west of Fort Lauderdale. The house cost $91,999, but the Allensworths were able to get a mortgage with only 10 percent down. Their monthly mortgage payment is $843, about twice what they had paid in rent.

”You have to sacrifice a little to get somewhere, I think,” Mrs. Allensworth said. ”Half the people our age are still going to the beach. I’m past that now. I’m looking forward to buying more houses.”

For most of this century, home ownership has been supported and encouraged by the policies of the Federal Government, to an extent, some scholars suggest, unparalleled in the world. Mortgage-interest deductions amount to a subsidy of $40 billion to $60 billion, and now after the income-tax reform, interest deductions were left untouched as virtually the only major deduction left.

But even though that deduction unquestionably plays in many decisions to buy rather than rent, it does not explain the national infatuation with owning. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 53 percent of all homeowners last year took the standard deduction rather than itemizing mortgage interest on their tax returns.

Many of those people had already paid off their mortgages. But for others, the standard deduction was the better choice.

What this says is that while Government policy has facilitated home ownership something more is at play. More than just a symbol of having arrived in the middle class, living in your own home has become part of the American psyche.

”The thing has been pushed, ideologically, almost as a basic American fantasy,” said Susan Saegert, a professor of environmental psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Home ownership ”fed right into the ethos of the United States from the beginning,” Professor Saegert said. ”It has become an aspect of being an American.”



5 Disastrous Tax Mistakes People Make When They Work From Home


Working at home has multiple perks—not the least of which is that short commute to your home office in your PJs. (Yes, it’s a cliché, and yes, it happens.) But while you might be incredibly talented at writing novels, designing websites, or whatever it is you do during your 9-to-5 at home, there comes a time of year that trips up almost all of us: tax time.

Granted, working from home—either occasionally or full time—provides plenty of ways to save on taxes. But within those opportunities lie pitfalls galore that could also land you in an audit. To help you stay on the right side of that equation when filing this year, heed these top tax mistakes people make when they work from home—plus whether any rules change next year once President Donald Trump‘s new tax plan is in full swing.


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1. Neglecting to take all your deductions

One of the best perks of working from home is the many deductions you can take for various expenses. However, a few are commonly overlooked, says Josh Zimmelman, owner of Westwood Tax & Consulting, in Manhattan, NY.

For instance? Many don’t realize that they can deduct a percentage of their internet, landline, and utilities if they are partly used for work. Work-from-homers can also deduct transportation costs to outside meetings, dues for professional development, and regulatory fees or licenses paid to state or local governments. So if you use any of those, make sure to add them to the heap!

For 2018, the rules change a bit for those who aren’t self-employed but work from home for a larger corporation (if you receive a W-2, that’s you). Next year, your deductions on Schedule A will be limited to a maximum of 2% of your adjusted gross income. Any costs beyond that won’t be deductible, so you’d better start reining in those expenses!

Self-employed individuals, however, are not subject to this cap.

2. Taking too many suspicious deductions

On the other hand, some freelancers put themselves at risk of an audit by trying to write off bogus expenses, Zimmelman cautions.

“In order for an expense to be deductible, it must be ‘ordinary and necessary’ to run your business,” he says. Just because you’re at home while you work doesn’t mean you can write off that fancy new espresso maker, for example; nor should you write off lunch with your spouse at that fancy bistro down the street (unless you’re in business together).

3. Taking an inappropriate home office deduction

Working from home doesn’t automatically mean you can deduct a portion of your rent (or monthly mortgage fees) for the square footage you devote to a “home office.”

There are two main criteria for legally using this deduction, says Jason Miller, tax manager at Nussbaum Yates Berg Klein & Wolpow, in New York City.

  • Your home office must be exclusively a home office, not sometimes used for professional use and sometimes for personal use. That means your kitchen counter, guest room, or TV room with a computer don’t count. In IRS parlance, they are looking for “regular and exclusive” use, Miller says.
  • Your home office must be your principal place of business. If you work at home and have an office outside of the home, you normally would not be allowed to take the home office deduction, he cautions. Exceptions can be made if you hold client meetings in your home, but check with your accountant before taking this deduction if you maintain outside quarters as well.

In the past (and for filing year 2017 right now), W-2 employees of larger corporations could claim a home office deduction even if their main offices were elsewhere. But starting in 2018, that benefit ends for telecommuters, so you can kiss your home office deduction goodbye. Self-employed individuals, however, are still in the clear.

4. Commingling personal and business spending

Too many work-at-home professionals miss out on deductions because their finances are in serious disarray, Zimmelman finds. An easy solution is to carefully track business spending by setting up separate checking, savings, and credit card accounts.

You also need to keep meticulous records of what equipment is used for business activities and what is personal. So, for example, if you have one cellphone for both professional and personal use, you can deduct a percentage of the expenses on your tax return, based on the percentage of use.

“You’ll need detailed call logs or other documentation to back that up,” he warns.

For 2018 onward, accurate records are still important, but if you’re an employee who files your tax return on Schedule A, that 2% cap might mean you lose some of the deductions you enjoyed in the past.

5. Thinking credit card statements are sufficient to prove expenses

Do you blithely toss receipts because you consider your credit card statement to be adequate proof of your expenditures? You could be in trouble if you’re one of the unlucky people to get audited.

“The IRS will not accept credit card statement as backup because they do not show itemized details of what was purchased,” says Miller. For example, say you have a charge from an office supply store for $1,500 on your credit card: The IRS cannot determine if you were buying legit office needs or computer components for your teen.

Plus, remember that in an audit, the burden of proof still remains on the taxpayer to prove or substantiate expenses. So, keep saving those receipts! Apps abound so you don’t have to stuff them in a shoebox; one’s even called Shoeboxed, which scans and saves them for future reference.

Leslie Sells Houses

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