Spring Home Health Check-Up: Three Areas to Examine Now

A step-by-step home check-up guide to find warning signs and advice on how to repair them

By David Baur, Product Manager, GCP Applied Technologies

Spring is here! Time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It is also the ideal time to do a home health check-up, inspecting what winter left behind.

So, what are the three key areas of your home to examine and what do you look for? We have you covered from roof to deck. Follow this step-by-step home check-up guide to find warning signs and advice on how to repair them.

Roof: You’ve probably never thought about it, but your roof has to battle a lot of enemies: ultraviolet rays, rain, wind, snow and ice. But the good news is most new shingle roofs are designed to last about 20 years. Slate roofs and some types of tile and metal roofs can last even longer. The actual life span of your roof is determined by several factors, including environmental conditions, material quality, proper application and regular roof maintenance.

Warning Signs: How do you know when your roof is in trouble? Look for these warning signs:

Outside:

  • Shingles that are warped, blistered, missing or torn
  • Shingles covered in moss or algae, which hold moisture and encourage rot
  • Loose material or wear around chimneys, pipes and other penetrations
  • Overhanging tree branches that could gouge the roof in a strong wind
  • Excessive debris (leaves, dirt, ice, roofing granules) in the gutters or downspouts, which block drainage

Inside:

  • Ceiling spots or leaks
  • Cracked paint
  • Discolored plasterboard
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Mold, mildew or rot in the walls, ceilings, insulation and electrical systems
  • In the attic, look for signs of water infiltration such as staining, dampness, or mold growing on insulation/sheathing/rafters A poorly ventilated attic that shows signs of moisture, which promotes the roof’s decay. Sufficient attic ventilation can be achieved by installing larger or additional vents

Repairs Needed?Image result for Pictures of bad roofs

If repairs are needed, don’t skimp on quality to save a few cents. Much of the damage associated with serious storms results from water entering the home when roof coverings or siding is blown off. This is why it is imperative that you have a secondary layer of waterproofing protection underneath the shingles and siding. If proper protection measures are not taken, the resulting leaks are the main cause of interior damage, as well as potential causes of rot and mold. Rot and mold can lead to major structural damage and even potential health problems for homeowners.

Use Underlyaments: FEMA has published recommendations for the use of fully-adhered roofing underlayments, such as Grace Ice & Water Shield®, as an enhanced secondary water barrier for homes. In the event roof coverings are blown off or water manages to get underneath your shingles, these underlayments are the key to preventing water infiltration.

Windows & Doors: Beyond the roof, a home’s doors and windows can also become major leak zones. Even if the windows and doors are well shuttered in a storm, wind-driven rain can be blown into the house at these points, especially if they have not been properly flashed and weatherproofed.Image result for pictures of windows and doors that need repair

Warning Signs: How do you know when your doors and windows are in trouble? The following are some signs of water damage:

Inside & Outside:

  • Leaks or breaks in seams around window trim and sills
  • Uneven doorframes
  • Discolored plasterboard
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Chipped or cracked stucco finishes
  • Mold, mildew, or rot in the walls, insulation, and electrical systems
  • Missing, cracked, or blistered paint inside the home

Repairs Needed?

Use Flashing: Flashing is a critical part of your home’s weather barrier system. If not properly selected and installed, wind-driven rain, ice and snow, can leak and quickly cause damage to your home. Flexible flashings such as GCP Applied Technologies’ Vycor® Plus can be used to seal the most vulnerable spots, including windows, doors, corner boards, and other non-roof detail areas. It is designed to work in severe winter climates, milder climates, and in coastal areas where wind driven rain is common.

Deck: Last but not least, check the deck.A deck is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors in the warmer weather. But, if your deck is not protected against the extreme weather, it can deteriorate and become unsafe. Decks, fences and other wood products should be routinely weatherproofed and cleaned to maximize their useful life. Weather combined with the treatment chemicals used for today’s pressure treated lumber means that the modern deck must be proper constructed to hold up.

Warning Signs: How do you know when your deck is in trouble? Look for these warning signs:Image result for Pictures of spring home on the outside maintenance

  • Warped boards
  • Cracked or split boards
  • Debris that is “clogging up” space between deck boards
  • Look under the deck for corroded joist hangers and other connectors
  • Soft wood
  • Mold and mildew

Repairs Needed?

Use a Protective Barrier: Even with today’s treated and high-tech decking products–which look great and last and last–preventing joist rot and decay, as a result of water accumulation under the decking boards, remains a major problem. Vycor Deck Protector® is a unique solution to significantly extend the useful life of decks. Vycor Deck Protector® helps prevent joist rot and decay and decrease the corrosion rate of connectors and fasteners.

By inspecting these three areas of your home and correcting any damage with the best materials, you will ensure your home will live longer. Not to mention your wallet will be happy too! Now, put on those shades and head out to enjoy the spring & summer activities with peace of mind!

David Baur is Product Manager at GCP Applied Technologies, formerly known as Grace Construction Products. He has step by step tips for homeowners, contractors and builders on building homes for extreme weather.

Leslie Sells Houses

 

Image result for pictures of home maintenance

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What Is a Lazy Susan? How a Traditional Turntable Can Help You Tidy Up

lazy-susan

What is a Lazy Susan? In its simplest form, it’s a spinning tray that sits atop a table or shelf. Add compartments, and it becomes a brilliant storage solution that makes everything from ketchup bottles to cotton swabs easier to reach. Lazy Susans are available in just about any material: wood, bamboo, glass, or acrylic.

Wondering how well a Lazy Susan would fit into your home? You can spin the concept a multitude of ways in just about every room. Here’s how.

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Lazy Susan for dining and entertaining

Photo by Barnes Vanze Architects, Inc

You may have grown up with a Lazy Susan on the kitchen table. It probably made passing the salt or the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter buttery spread easier for everyone. But tabletop turntables aren’t just for “Brady Bunch”–size families. A Lazy Susan made of dark wood or marble ($99.95, crateandbarrel.com) can be a chic, convenient solution for a formal dining table.

Lazy Susan for pantry organization

Lazy Susans in the pantry
Lazy Susans in the pantryRia Safford/RiOrganize.com

“We use Lazy Susans, also referred to as turntables, all the time,” says personal organizer Ria Safford of RiOrganize. In particular, she likes them for hard-to-reach corners of pantries, “because they allow you to maximize the space, while also making all of your items easily accessible,” she says. Her company uses turntables in the pantry for items such as oils, vinegars, spreads, and sauces.

For pantries, she recommends the bamboo turntable from The Container Store ($10, containerstore.com).

Certified organizer Amy Trager likes how a Lazy Susan can make use of deep corner cabinets.

“It’s just so much easier to reach and see what’s in there” with a turntable. She finds them less helpful in shallow cabinets, though.

“Putting a circle into a square or rectangle leaves corners unused on all sides,” she says. “It also means that items can’t be stacked, to take advantage of whatever height might be available in the space.”

Shortfalls of Lazy Susans


Photo by The Closet Works Inc.
Not everyone’s a fan, however.

“From an organizing point of view, I don’t like Lazy Susans,” says Ben Soreff of House to Home Organizing in the Northeast. “We see a lot of them in corner kitchen cabinets, and they never seem to work.”

It’s not easy for items to go in and out of those spaces. Worse, items such as container lids and spices can fall off the surface and get stuck underneath—Soreff calls these “Lazy Susan killers.”

That said, Soreff does recommend using a Lazy Susan as an appliance garage for juicers, mixers, and other “larger, bulky items that won’t fall over during the spin.”

Lazy Susan goes beyond the kitchen

A turntable makes sense of your personal items.
A turntable makes sense of your personal items.Ria Safford/RiOrganize.com

A Lazy Susan can be used in pretty much any space that needs more storage.

“Our favorite turntable to use all throughout the house is the Linus Divided Turntable ($16.99–$24.99, containerstore.com),” says Safford. “We use this product in pantries, medicine cabinets, and bathrooms. The divided compartments can hold loose items like cough drops and cotton swabs, and the raised exterior keeps them from falling over.”

Lazy Susans with compartments similar to these also work well under for under-the-sink storage.

Under-the-sink storage made more accessible
Under-the-sink storage made more accessibleRia Safford/RiOrganize
Leslie Sells Houseslazy-susan

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Five Things You Need to Know About Selling a Condo

How to Get Wood Flooring on Any Budget

Living Room for FB 04 2018

Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Here are some of the best budget-friendly hardwood floor choices.

Guest post by Fran Donegan

Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Wood is a natural, renewable resource, plus wood flooring complements all types of home decor, from traditional to contemporary. Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Wood is a natural, renewable resource, plus wood flooring complements all types of home decor, from traditional to contemporary. The downside is that wood floors, especially solid wood floors, can be expensive. Some exotic wood species, such as Brazilian walnut, can cost more than $15 per square foot — and that doesn’t include installation labor. However, you can find alternatives that give you the look of real wood at a reduced price — some as low as $2 or $3 per square foot. Here are some of the best budget-friendly hardwood floor choices.

Calculating the Overall Price

The products listed below go from most expensive to least expensive, but there’s a lot of overlap among the categories. For example, some solid wood products are less expensive than some luxury vinyl tiles. Before you make your final decision, factor in the cost of professional installation, which can add as much as $3 to $10 per square foot to the total cost of a flooring project. Some of the items that can drive up installation costs include:

• Removing and disposing of the old flooring
• Repairing the subfloor when necessary
• The size and shape of the room(s)
• Stair installation

If you’re an experienced DIYer, you can save money by installing the floors yourself. Beginners should leave the job to the professionals, though — you may end up making mistakes that are even more expensive to fix.

Solid Wood

This is usually the most expensive option, but there are ways to reduce the cost, especially in the long run. When properly maintained, solid wood flooring will last as long as the house stands. You can freshen up the look at any time by sanding away the old finish and restaining and sealing the floor.

Some wood species are more expensive than others. Fortunately, many of the most common types, such as oak or maple, fall into the low- to mid-range of costs. Solid wood products can come finished or unfinished. If the floor is unfinished, the installer will stain and seal the floor once it is in place, which adds to the installation costs. On the flip side, the prefinished product may cost more up front.

Engineered Wood 

These products are constructed of multiple thin layers of material that are bonded together under pressure. The top layer is made from a familiar wood species — such as oak or maple — and is usually treated with a factory-applied finish that resists dirt and scuff marks. Engineered wood floors are less likely than solid wood to wrap and twist because of moisture and humidity, so they can be installed in basements and bathrooms. Some products feature click-in-place installation — no need for adhesives or fasteners — which is an easier, faster installation method perfect for DIYers. However, a vapor barrier needs to be installed or attached to the flooring.

Bamboo 

Bamboo floors are manufactured to either look like traditional wood flooring or showcase their distinctive grass-like look. Some bamboo products are harder than solid wood flooring. They are strong and long-lasting, but are easy to scratch and are not recommended for areas prone to moisture. Bamboo is a type of grass and grows to maturity much more quickly than trees do, which makes it a sustainable, eco-friendly option. Click-in-place installation is available for some products.

Porcelain Tile 


New porcelain tiles can be made to look like anything, including real wood. Some products are available in planks that have a wood-like texture. Porcelain tiles are an inexpensive, easy way to achieve a “reclaimed” wood look — many tiles mimic the texture and color variation of aged planks. As with regular tiles, they are durable and can be used in wet areas, including bathrooms. They are also stain-resistant and much easier to clean than real wood — spills wipe up quickly, and using just water and a mild soap makes them shine. Porcelain tiles must be installed using mortar and grout.

Luxury Vinyl Tile 


As with porcelain tiles, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) can look like wood and come in traditional-style planks. LVTs are thicker and more durable than standard vinyl. They are usually waterproof, are easier to clean than true hardwoods, and can be installed in any room in the house. To prolong their durability, many LVTs are treated to resist color fading and scratches.

Laminate 

Laminate floors are composed of a high-density hardboard core protected by a melamine layer that can be made to look like anything — including real wood. The top layer protects against dirt and scuff marks, but the material should not be installed in rooms that are exposed to moisture. Click-in-place installation is available.

Hardwood flooring is a classic, timeless look that fits a wide range of design options. Thanks to today’s selection of flooring products, it’s easy to get a wood look at a lower cost. When making your final decision, be sure to include both the material costs and the installation costs. That way, you’ll get the look you want at a budget-friendly price.

Leslie Sells Houses

DIY author Fran Donegan has written several books, including Paint Your Home. He also writes for The Home Depot about homeownership and projects that add value to your house. To see a selection of hardwood flooring options like those described by Fran in this article, please click here.

7 Front Porch Ideas That’ll Help You Make a Good First Impression

front-porch-ideas

When was the last time you really thought about your front porch, and ideas to beautify the front of your house? You’ve probably spent a lot of time spiffing up the inside of your home or tending to your front lawn, but your front porch is another area of your home that deserves a decent amount of time and attention.

Many people get so preoccupied with decorating the interior of their home that they overlook this area, says Dawn T. Totty, a designer based in Chattanooga, TN. If you’ve let your porch fall by the wayside, you’re missing out.

“Designing a well-curated front porch not only adds value to your home, but it also creates another opportunity for [you] to increase your living space,” says Totty. “Think of it as your outdoor living room.”

Whether you have a modern concrete slab or a grand wraparound porch with a view, there’s sure to be a design tip below to help you make the most of this all-important (and often neglected) space.

1. Bring art outside

Farmhouse porch design
Farmhouse porch designMiyuki Yamaguchi Design Studio

Provided that you place it in a dry, weather-proofed part of your porch, “artwork, or even a mirror placed on an inside wall, can create interest and give the look of an indoor living space,” Totty says. It’s like getting the best of both worlds!

2. Set a table (or two)

Craftsman porch design
Craftsman porch designHistorical Concepts

Although many porches have minimal square footage, “Cocktail and side tables make the space functional and cozy,” says Totty.

A bistro table with two to four chairs should be more than adequate for an al fresco dinner or after-dinner cocktail with friends. And while the chairs and table don’t need to match, “They should complement each other,” she adds.

3. Front porch fire pit

Modern deck design
Modern deck designJeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

“Table fire features are a great way to create an elegant atmosphere,” says Totty. Even a small fire pit “brings a wow factor to any porch decor,” she says.

Buy one off the shelf or gather ingredients like lava rocks, a rectangular planter, and gel fuel, and craft your own DIY version.

4. Lose the boring porch lights

Beach Style entry design
Beach Style entry designJS Interiors LLC

When you’re revamping your porch space, lighting is key. “Flush-mount lighting is not the only option,” Totty says.

Try modern semiflush-mount lighting or a chic pendant light instead. Either option will illuminate the threshold of your home and give your visitors something to talk about when they walk through the door.

5. Anchor the space with furniture

Beach Style porch design
Beach Style porch designEvens Architects

If space is plentiful, choose a sturdy, solid set of furniture that can withstand the onslaught of weather from all four seasons, says Totty.

Opt for a sofa, love seat, or armchair (or some combination of the two) upholstered in outdoor fabric. Then, place a throw blanket on the arms of the furniture before guests stop by, to make the space feel even more cozy.

The goal, Totty says, is to create “a living room aesthetic for year-round use.”

6. Throw paint on the ceiling

Traditional porch design
Traditional porch designMax Crosby Construction

Who says your porch ceiling has to be a shade of blah? Paint it a striking color like sky blue to “increase the depth of the space and ensure the architecture remains the focal point,” says Dee Schlotter, senior color marketing manager at the paint company PPG.

If blue isn’t really your style, Schlotter suggests picking a color that will harmonize with your surrounding landscape.

7. Beam it up

Craftsman exterior design
Craftsman exterior designTongue & Groove Design+Build By Mark Batson

Wooden beams are the architectural addition you didn’t know you needed. If you have a sloped, wide opening above your porch, consider adding in a few beams for a rustic, Craftsman-style vibe.

If you live in a rainy or snowy climate and are worried about water damage, you can still join in on the fun. Just check out faux wooden beams.

“Unlike real wood products, faux beams stand up to extreme outdoor conditions and don’t attract wood-boring pests. They don’t split, crack, or chip like real wood, and are much lighter and cheaper than buying old barn wood,” says David Ellwanger, owner of AZ Faux Beams. Faux wood might also be a good choice if termites are a problem in your area.

Selling Your Home 101

When it comes to selling your home, it is always a good idea to have a home inspection first before you put your home on the market.  Here’s why:C-1 Photo

  • When was the last time you went into your attic? Poor ventilation in your attic can lead to mold issues.
  • What about your crawlspace? Dry-rot can lead to big issues if not replaced.
  • Check to make sure your hot water heater has the required earthquake straps.
  • Curb appeal is a MUST to get potential buyers interested in your home. Investing in curb appeal is one of the most important things you can start with. Make your house stand out from all the rest!
  • Cleaning your gutters is one of the items an appraiser will call for to have done.
  • Has your roof been cleaned recently? There should not be any moss growing there.

“It is always a good idea to have your furnace cleaned and serviced,” noted Leslie Swindahl of Hawkins Poe of University Place /Tacoma.

If you find any of these issues, you will want to get them fixed as soon as possible. Once you have addressed health and safety issues, it’s time for a Hawkins Poe REALTOR® (Leslie Swindahl) to come and look at your home inside and out. Our REALTORS® will always put our skill, experience, on your side.

When it comes to selling your home for the first time, this is when a Hawkins Poe REALTOR® is your best choice to help you through the process. When you work with Hawkins Poe, you can expect friendly, professional service that includes in-depth knowledge of the area and the current market conditions, outstanding communication skills along with the ability to aggressively market, manage and negotiate for you!

Leslie Photo 2017Leslie Swindahl, REALTOR®
253-312-0447 (cell)

Hawkins Poe 

Leslie sells houses

How to Prune Trees: Read This Now, Before You Ruin Your Yard and Your Life

pruning-trees

Any homeowner with a yard will want to learn how to prune trees. After all, foliage is a valuable feature on a property, even more so if it’s well maintained. Plus, pruning isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, but important to a tree’s health. And maybe yours, too!

“Pruning allows air to freely circulate through the tree, which helps prevent disease and promote better flowering,” says Jeff McManus, the director of landscape services at the University of Mississippi and author of “Growing Weeders Into Leaders.” Another bonus: Better air circulation keeps the tree from falling over (and onto your house!) in high winds.

While you could hire a landscaper, any homeowner can learn how to prune trees. Here are the steps, tools, and timing info to do it right.

When to prune trees

“The best time to prune trees is generally in the late winter or early spring,” says McManus“The reason for this is that it’s easier to see the limbs while they’re bare, pruning cuts will heal faster, and it’s right before the tree starts to grow anew in the warmer weather.”

How to prune trees: Tools you’ll need

Step 1: Remove the dead weight

Step 1 is pretty simple: If it looks sick, remove it. You don’t want to leave anything on the tree that will impede new growth. If a limb is diseased, it could infect other healthy branches, so get it off. Same with any dead leaves, fruit, flowers, or limbs. Plus, “limbs that touch your home or roofline should always be removed,” says McManus.

Step 2: Work from the inside out

Once all the dead stuff is off, “move to the inside of the tree and remove twiggy horizontal growth that crosses the center,” says McManus. “I also like to remove any crossing or rubbing branches and water sprouts, which are branches growing straight up in the center.”

Once you’ve worked your way to the outside branches, trim any limbs that are growing out of bounds. A well-manicured tree generally looks symmetrical, so if something is sticking out or one side looks bushier than the other, try to get the tree in balance. Also check the tree from several angles.

Prune those water sprouts in the center of the tree.
Prune those water sprouts in the center of the tree.Growing Weeders Into Leaders/Allie Bush

Step 3: Look for the wrinkles

When removing an entire limb, you want to prune close to the trunk and above the wrinkles. “Look for the rings of wrinkled bark where the limb meets the trunk and cut just outside the wrinkled ring,” says McManus. “This helps the wound heal naturally.”

When pruning a limb to the trunk, cut above the wrinkles.
When pruning a limb to the trunk, cut above the wrinkles.trainingyoungtrees/YouTube.com

If you don’t need to remove an entire limb, look instead for an outwardly growing side shoot or side bud (this doesn’t mean a flower bud, but rather a bulging spot on the limb where the tree will launch new growth). Cut at a slight angle (about 45 degrees) just above the shoot or bud.

Step 4: Use a three-cut method for larger limbs

For limbs larger than 1.5 inches in diameter, you should use the three-cut method to remove the limb in order to keep from damaging the tree. If the bark tears or is pulled off the tree as the limb drops to the ground, it’s tough for the tree to heal quickly, and may even lead to future damage of the trunk. The three-cut method helps prevent that from happening.

  1. Using your pruning saw, make a cut along the bottom of the branch, about 4 inches away from the trunk of the tree. Cut about one-third of the way in. This cut is a preventive one that keeps the bark on the limb from pulling away, down the trunk of the tree, as it’s being removed.
  2. Once the first cut is done, move about 2 inches outward from the first cut. This is where you’ll make a second cut—this time on the top of the limb, removing the limb by cutting straight down, parallel to the first cut.
  3. After most of the limb is removed, you can cut closer to the rings of wrinkled bark where the limb once met the trunk. Cutting off this last stub will help this wound heal naturally.

Step 5: Before you cut, always ask why

“Never remove more than 25% of the tree when pruning,” instructs McManus. “And keep in mind, most newly planted flowering trees need very little, if any, pruning.”

A good rule of thumb to stave off over-pruning: Question your cuts before you make them. “I teach others to ask, ‘I am cutting this limb because…’ since this will help you examine your cuts and keep you from removing too much,” says McManus.

Leslie Sells Houses

 pruning-trees

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?

Image result for Pictures of buyers walking into their home

 

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.

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