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December 2019

real estate tax tips

KEY TIPS: Year-End Real Estate Tax Tips for Investors

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Now is the time to make the proper real estate tax moves for 2019, and if you are a serious real estate investor, this definitely applies to you.

First, you have to check with your CPA to determine if you are classified as a professional real estate investor, or if your real estate activities will be considered passive. The IRS says you are a professional real estate investor if:

  • You perform in excess of 750 hours of personal services during the tax year in real property trades and businesses and
  • over half of your personal services performed during the year were in real property trades and businesses.

If you are able to be classified as a professional real estate investor, you can write off any losses against your yearly income when you do your real estate tax.

Otherwise, your real estate losses will be considered passive, and are only allowed to be used to offset other income if you “actively participated” in the passive investment; if this is true you can only deduct up to $25,000 of your losses against your income, but only if your “modified gross income” is less than $100,000 per year. There are other qualifiers also, and that’s why you need to talk to your CPA about deducting any real estate losses.

CPA Is a Must

You probably don’t close any deals until your attorney has looked over the closing statements. Even though you may be a pro, attorneys can quickly spot errors, omissions, and clauses that are not in your favor.

The passive v. non-passive income issue can be quite complex, and the last thing you want to do is trigger an IRS audit because your DIY tax return was full of errors. Don’t skimp on accounting advice and be sure to budget enough for a quality accounting professional. Under no circumstances should you try to navigate IRS tax return forms and try to do your taxes yourself.

Where the IRS Audits More

Income tax filings in these counties were audited at a higher rate than the nation as a whole, courtesy of ProPublica:

Image result for income tax audits in the USA

Losses Can Be Useful

Since, if circumstances permit, and you are able to use real estate losses to offset income, those losses have to exist, and here is where year-end planning can be key. 

Basic end-of-the-year business practice dictates that any income that can be delayed should be put off until the next year and this income can consist of:


Don’t close any house flipping deals until next year if possible. That way, you can show all of the expenses you have accumulated to do the remodeling, but since you haven’t yet cashed out, the entire project can provide you with a nice 2019 loss.

Image result for real estate tax


Do all repairs this year; don’t put anything off until 2020. Therefore, those repair expenses can offset rental income, for example.

Buy Materials Now

Doing a big remodel next year? Buy the materials this year and use the costs to offset 2019 income.

Get Inspections Done

The Northern Virginia Real Estate team gave the following tip: “Need an inspection for an upcoming sale? Don’t wait until next year; do it now and reap the tax benefits of another expense.”

HOA Assessments

Image result for hoa bill pic

If you have an HOA bill or even a big assessment due next year, try to make the payment this year so you can create more 2019 expenses.

Prepay Mortgages

Make sure you pay all January 2020 mortgage and rent payments in December 2019 as these expenses can be substantial.

Don’t Deposit Rents

On the other side of the ledger, don’t deposit 2019 any rents you have received until next year as this will reduce your 2019 gross income.


Of course, you have to be in a good financial condition to purchase items before you need them and to delay depositing checks until next year, and if things are tight, you’ll have to proceed as you normally would throughout the year.

Being a great businessperson means taking care of clients/customers but all keeping careful records. There is no sense in paying any more taxes than you to, so again, prepay what you can, put off depositing funds until after the new year begins, and be sure to consult with your CPA before you do anything. 

Open House Behavior

How to Behave at an Open House Tour?

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When in search of your dream home, you will attend many open house tours and tiresome viewings. That’s why at C4D Crew, Minnesota’s home financing specialists, we wrapped up some of the basic house showing protocol for homebuyers to follow.

A defining trick of the trade to find the right abode is the interaction between people. To meet, negotiate, and work with realtors, and sellers comes down to etiquette and manners.

Those who offer the sale and open house will be kind and try to charm and impress you. It’s how professionals persuade a client to buy a property. 

However, you, as the buyer, should have appropriate behavior, too. To make a good impression at the open house and raise your chances to nail a house for sale you like, you should stick to specific rules, known as the house viewing etiquette of realtors and buyers.

And don’t get all fussy when you see the word “etiquette.” It refers to several simple tips that are meant to teach you how to act properly when visiting an open house.

First-time buyer or not:

So, what are the manners to follow while on a house-hunting?

Be on Time

House showings occur in an arranged day and hour and it’s essential to not be late. According to Housebuyers4u, the seller and the broker appreciate when potential buyers respect their busy schedules. Both homeowners and estate agents have to attend multiple prospects and making wait are not doing you any favors. 

Show Courtesy

It’s a good impression to introduce yourself in a polite and sophisticated way. However, be careful not to look pretentious. Just keep it humble and let others lead.

Preserve Clean

Owners will likely tidy up and prepare their homes before a forthcoming house viewing. So, it’s best to not bring food or drinks while at the property tour and thus avoid causing a mess.

Should You Take Shoes Off… Or Not

This is normal, minding that you enter somebody’s actual home. To take your shoes off or use overshoes is part of real estate agent etiquette. Brokers will likely stick to protocol and require you to it and would be grateful for your thoughtfulness. 

Moreover, you never know what cultural differences you’ll experience. People from some nationalities and religions might find it offensive if you walk around their home with your shoes on.

Don’t Bring Your Whole Family 

If possible, leave your parents, kids, and pets at home, because they are likely to hinder a decent house tour. You have to agree that house viewing can’t be adequate if there is a fuss around kids or animals. 

Besides. the property owner might get irritated by too many people and commotion.

Ask For Permission

Despite being an open house, it’s still not your home. 

We understand that you need to examine and check as much as possible, but it’ll matter a great deal to owners if you first ask before you enter rooms, open drawers, touch objects, and etc.

The same goes for if you need to use the bathroom or feel the need to sit down.

Can You Take Pictures When Viewing a House

Only after you kindly request it, so you won’t outstep privacy. You will look well-mannered and respectful.

Keep Rude Opinion to Yourself

House viewing etiquette is all about showing high regard for the seller. The last thing to do is to express offensive remarks on interior and decor. 

Keep it to yourself if the property owner’s taste does not match yours. You will only offend that person. Even if you’re not in their presence, keep all impressions to yourself. 

Furthermore, owners might think you try to negotiate and that might not be in your favor.

Relevant Questions Only

The previous tip should not stop you from revealing concerns about the features of the house such as details on electricity, water, isolation, the roof, and etc. It is okay to seek information about each when the time is right. 

Do Inspections Later

It’s best if you make notes and arrange another meeting on a convenient day and time to discuss them.

Be Concise and Precise

But how long should a house showing take? 

It’s almost as if are on a tour in a museum. You can’t spend too long on the open property. Owners might think that you lack interest in the house. What comes in hand is making a list with the most significant characteristics to look for before the viewing. 

This way you won’t wander, especially with other buyers around.

What To Bring When Viewing A House?

According to the style and manners guide Gentleman Zone:

  • Your smile and friendly attitude;
  • A neat and formal outfit;
  • Overshoes to make a good impression;
  • A notebook to organize your findings; 
  • A treat to delight the owner. Chocolate goes a long way, you know;

Open House Etiquette Conclusion

If you follow these simple tips of property viewing, you will definitely prove yourself as a perfect candidate to buy the abode. For the sake of your future home, it’s crucial to obtain a set of good manners and attitude. 

They will undoubtedly be an advantage compared to any other poorly-behaving potential buyers.

Should You Heat Your Home With Electricity or Gas?

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In Minnesota, temperatures are already hovering around freezing, so the time to think about how you are going to heat your home has passed — either your home is running as efficiently as possible or it isn’t. Still, it isn’t too late to track how your home is handling the wintertime temperatures and consider changes to your heating strategy for next time around. Specifically, you should mull over this key question: Should you rely primarily on electricity to keep your home warm, or should you invest in a gas heating system? Read on to find out.

How Gas Heating Works

A furnace is the typical gas heater used in homes, a permanent heating fixture that provides forced-air heating to an entire home — or at least where the ducts and vents go. Gas heating typically relies on natural gas, which burns hot and relatively clean, allowing its widespread use in homes.

When you set your thermostat to heat, the furnace pulls in an appropriate amount of gas through an intake duct. The natural gas passes over the pilot light, which is a flame that remains burning even when your furnace isn’t actively heating your home. The pilot light uses a small amount of gas to ignite the rest of the gas within the furnace. Then, cool air is pulled into the furnace, usually through a heat exchanger — a zig-zagging line of pipe that serves to keep the cool air separate from the burning gas. Heat exchangers are necessary because a byproduct of burning natural gas is carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that is toxic to animals. As the air travels through the heat exchanger, over the burning gas, it heats up, at which point it is forced through ducts to heat the various rooms of your home.

Gas Pros and Cons

Gas heaters are perhaps the fastest and easiest heating systems available. Because natural gas burns quickly and with high heat, you can enjoy a warm home exceedingly swiftly after you modify your thermostat. Plus, gas tends to be less costly than electricity, oil, wood or other methods of warming a home, so you can keep costs low while enjoying fast temperature control. If you already have a gas heater, you can enjoy minimal maintenance and relatively inexpensive repairs until the furnace reaches the end of its lifespan, which occurs after about 20 years. Then, you will need to replace your furnace and update your ductwork, which requires professional care. 

Unfortunately, though gas heaters may be fast, they aren’t particularly efficient or eco-friendly. Natural gas is cleaner than coal or oil, but it isn’t free from emissions; carbon monoxide and dioxide, the biggest byproducts of burning natural gas, are greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. What’s more, furnaces can be dangerous to the home because they can leak toxic gases or cause housefires. It is worth considering what is important to you — cost savings vs. environmental safety — when determining how to heat your home.

How Electric Heating Works

Gas heaters use an open flame fueled by natural gas to heat air, and as you might expect, electric heaters use electricity to accomplish the same goal. This is achieved by using conductive materials (usually nickel- or iron-based) to channel electricity into the heater and then applying resistors, which convert the electrical energy into heat. The more resistance an electrical current encounters, the hotter it gets. Most often, electric heaters have wire in long, straight bars, which allows the heater to heat up a greater volume of air. Because heating elements don’t produce dangerous byproducts, the heater can pull cool air directly over the coils to heat up. 

From there, different things happen depending on what type of electric heater you have. Unlike gas heaters, which primarily take the form of furnaces — as other gas-based heating isn’t safe for indoor use — you can find an electric heater in almost any form, from central heating to ductless wall-mounted or baseboard units to smaller, portable heaters to carry with you from room to room. An electric heater used in a central heating system will send heated air through ducts to different parts of the home, whereas smaller heaters might merely heat the surrounding air, with no dispersion system whatsoever.

Electricity Pros and Cons

The variety of sizes and shapes of electric heater is just one benefit. Smaller electric heating tools are incredibly easy to set up and use; many come ready for use just out the box. Electric heaters tend to be less expensive because they are less complex and easier to build. Plus, most homeowners can provide annual service to their own electric heaters, only calling professional services when the equipment breaks down. An electric heater, well-maintained, will fun for over 30 years, and they never produce the noxious gases and fire risk of their gas counterparts.

On the other hand, electric heaters aren’t terribly efficient, which means they will increase your energy bill, and they aren’t always effective at reaching every nook and cranny in your home. You might notice that rooms farthest from the furnace are colder than those immediately next to the furnace, and the same is true of smaller space heaters — they only warm areas nearby.


Sometimes, heating with gas makes more sense for a home; sometimes, electric heaters are best. You need to weigh the pros and cons of your unique situation to decide what kind of heating will most benefit your home.

14 Cleaning Tips to Tidy up for a Property Showing

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Do you want to find something that will save you time and help you clean a whole house easily and quickly? Do you have prospects coming in soon or a photoshoot for real estate agents to pitch?

In this post, you’ll find some of the simplest solutions, which can help you clean faster than usual, are situated in your kitchen, but not in the form you’d expect. You don’t need expensive products which might be too harsh on the indoor environment and produce dangerous fumes. Sometimes all you need is a few household ingredients and clever tricks. 

Here are 19 clever tips from the C4D Crew on how to effortlessly clean your house: 

1. Oils Can Help You Clean

Essential oils are widely used in various DIY cleaning recipes. They have can benefit your life in many ways, from removing buildup and disinfecting the surface, to making homemade cleaning mixtures smell better. 

The essential oil of lemon can do miracles with wooden furniture. It will clean out all kinds of stains and spots. Olive oil is often used on wooden surfaces as well, but mainly with a polishing purpose. 

A few drops of olive oil on a soft cloth can polish all kinds of wood, and even mask superficial scratches. 

2. Cleaning Hardwood Floors the Easy Way

A cloth soaked in soapy water can make hardwood floors shine, but it’s not always a good idea. Using soapy water on wooden surfaces always leaves the risk of suds. And no matter how much water you use afterward, there’s no guarantee you won’t miss a spot. 

According to Jane Wilson, Australian cleaning professional, white vinegar is the most efficient cleaner for hardwood floors. It’s also natural, safe, inexpensive and doesn’t produce foam. All you need is to mix one cup of vinegar in a bucket of warm water. The smell of vinegar disappears quickly, but if it bothers you, just add a few drops of essential oil of your choosing. 

3. Cleaning the Microwave

If there are unpleasant traces of oil and food in your microwave, you could just place a bowl of water with vinegar in it, and turn the appliance on for five minutes. 

The vinegar will do the hard part of softening all the burnt grease and dried food particles. After that, you’ll simply have to wipe the inside of the microwave with a dry cloth. If you encounter stubborn grease, you can try to scrub it away with a paste made of baking soda and water, then wash away with plain water. 

Experienced cleaners advise being careful not to get the mica cover wet because the microwave can explode when turned on. The mica cover is a small rectangle paper-like cover placed on one of the walls of the microwave. 

4. How to Clean Stainless Steel

Avoid using steel wool or any abrasive cleaning detergents on stainless steel, because the surface is very smooth and scratches easily. 

Instead, use paper towels with some vinegar in a spray bottle for any stains and dirt. It easily removes buildup and it doesn’t leave any smudges. After that, you can polish the surface with a microfibre cloth and some olive oil. The olive oil will provide a smooth finish and glow to the surface and will cover any small imperfections. 

5. Cleaning House Plants

How you arrange plants could make cleaning the leaves of your plants difficult but it can also happen faster. Instead of cleaning leaves one by one, take the entire plant to the bathroom or kitchen sink and gently wash them with the shower handset. 

Be careful not to flood the plant itself, though, because this will lead to mold in the soil. After that, let the plant dry naturally on the terrace or near an open window.

6. Glass Surfaces

Glass surfaces can be easily cleaned with a mixture of white vinegar and water instead of a window cleaner. Just put 4 cups of water and a quarter cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle, and use it instead of a window detergent. If they’re a lot of dust and stubborn dirt, you can also add a quarter cup of rubbing alcohol. 

As for the choice of cloth, t-shirts are a great alternative to newspapers and other materials, because they don’t leave lint. And cotton swabs are perfect for quickly cleaning the corners and any hard to reach spots. 

7. Granite Surfaces

If you have such surfaces at home, then you should no longer wonder how you could clean them. 

The answer is simple: 

  • Prepare a bucket of soapy water;
  • wash the surface with a cloth soaked in it; 
  • Wipe with a dry cloth. 

Since granite is a porous natural stone, all kinds of acidic cleaners like vinegar, lemons, or anything with ammonia or bleach in it, should be avoided. 

Sponges and abrasive tools or detergents are also not recommended. 

8. Cleaning Dirty Pans

Dirty pans will shine again if you treat them with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. 

  • First, you should put a layer of baking soda on pans and pots, 
  • Then, add hydrogen peroxide and after that some more baking soda. 
  • Leave it for half an hour and then just wipe off the gunk. 

This mixture will probably dissolve all kinds of stubborn grime. It’s not recommended to use it on gentle surfaces, and it’s not a good idea to breathe in the emissions, because the odor can be suffocating. 

9. Take Care of Mattresses

Mattresses are often is neglected because people think it would take ages to clean. Humans produce over 26 gallons of sweat each year during sleep, so cleaning your mattress is a matter of health.

You need to do is vacuum the mattress thoroughly once a month, then sprinkle some baking soda all over it. Leave for about an hour or two. It will soak all the oils and odors. Then you just need to vacuum the mattress once more. 

This method not only takes care of the smells and the moisture, but it also disinfects the surface, making it less appealing to pests such as bed bugs and dust mites.

10. Dirty Blenders

Blenders are often considered difficult to clean, because they have many parts, and food gets stuck to every crevice of the appliance. 

Fortunately, there is a very easy cleaning trick:

  • Pour soapy water hot enough. 
  • Turn it on for two minutes.
  • Rinse with water afterward. 

This way the blender will clean itself by using the power of the centrifuge.

11. Cleaning Blinds Easy

The best way to clean the blinds is via a sock. 

  • Place it on your hand and dip the tip into a bowl of vinegar. 
  • Squeeze out any excess. 
  • Run your fingers along both sides of every slat. 

Vinegar is perfect for disinfecting; it picks up the dust and any buildup. It also works wonders on static electricity, so the blinds will pick up less dust. 

Just make sure you rinse the dust off of the sock every here and there.

12. Crystal Candle Holders

Everyone loves candles because they bring luxury and make a home homier. However, wax dripping all over them can be very stubborn and difficult to remove. 

Fortunately, there is a very cool trick, which will help you remove it quickly and without scratching the gentle surface. 

  • Put object harmed by wax in the fridge
  • Leave it for a few hours
  • Peel off the wax afterward.

Once the wax hardens, it’s very easy to take it off the smooth surface. 

13. Cleaning Blackened Silver Utensils

Many homeowners have old classical silver utensils. Silver is a gentle metal, and it can be scratched by practically everything. This is why you shouldn’t throw your silver utensils in the sink when you want to clean them. Instead, 

Place them in an aluminum pan or a container lined with aluminum foil. 

  • Sprinkle with ordinary baking soda. 
  • Pour boiling water enough to cover all the utensils. 
  • Buff them with a cotton cloth when the stains disappear. 
  • Store each piece of silver separately. 
  • Don’t let pieces to touch each other, because this only fastens the process of oxidation. 

14. Cleaning Tiles Quick 

To have your tiles perfectly cleaned, you’ll need only a few general ingredients, which will make them shine with perfection. That said, you might want to hire house cleaning services, but if not, here’s the list:

  • Put 4 cups of warm water in a spray bottle. You will use it to dilute all the other ingredients in it. 
  • Then add a quarter cup of white vinegar, one-third cup of household ammonia and a quarter cup of baking soda. 

These are strong and yet natural products. Make sure all the dirt is off your tiles without scratching them. Be careful, because it will fizz a lot in the beginning. 

After you fill the spray bottle, you should use it to apply the tile and grout cleaner on the tiles. After the surface is well covered, you can wait for a few minutes for it to work its magic on the dirt, and then wipe it with a sponge or a damp cloth. If the dirt is stubborn, try removing it with a scrub brush. Repeat the process if needed.

How to Stop Foreclosure with a Short Sale

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If you are behind on your mortgage and know you can’t afford to pay the arrears, or, if foreclosure proceedings have already begun against you, you might be wondering if a short sale is a possibility.

Read on to find out what a short sale is, how it works, how it can stop foreclosure proceedings and the pros and cons of selling your home at short sale.

What is a Short Sale?

Real property is said to be subject to “short sale” when it is sold at some price that is less than the current owner owes on the mortgage. Often mortgage lenders will accept that lesser amount to save on the time and cost of a foreclosure proceeding.

How a Short Sale Proceeds

Usually, the first step is for a homeowner to start to struggle to make his or her mortgage payments on time and in full. In the current real estate market, it is likely that the subject property is “underwater,” meaning it would sell for less than what is owed on the mortgage.

At this point a homeowner has some options:

  • If the homeowner has a steady income and feels he or she can afford to keep the home, negotiations with the lending institution to get a mortgage modification can commence;
  • If the lending institution is uncooperative in reaching a loan modification, the homeowner can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition and pay the mortgage arrears over a 3- or 5-year plan;
  • If the homeowner cannot afford to keep the property, he or she can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and surrender it to the lender, and have personal liability for the mortgage balance discharged;
  • The homeowner can contact a real estate agent and have the property listed at market value as a “short sale;”
  • The homeowner can do nothing and just wait for the lender to take action – this gives the homeowner time to save funds to be able to move elsewhere, often several months or a year.

Real estate agents often work with short sale staff at lending institutions to arrange to list the property and sell it at market value, below what the homeowner owes. If a buyer makes an offer, it must be approved by the lending institution.

At that point, a savvy homeowner will negotiate over his or her rights before signing off on any sale. It is common for lending institutions to try to have the homeowner sign documents that impose continuing personal liability for the unpaid mortgage balance after the property is sold.  That amount is called the “deficiency.” Homeowners should make sure that any sale documents they sign include a clause forgiving any deficiency balance on their mortgage account.

While a short sale can take many months and often a year or more to process, it appears that for most homeowners the impact on their credit score is much less negative than the impact of a foreclosure proceeding or a bankruptcy filing. Also, if the homeowner wants to borrow money in the future, lenders are more likely to look favorably upon them for having been proactive when they were in financial distress.

What is Foreclosure?

In judicial foreclosure states, the mortgage lender must file a foreclosure lawsuit in court in order to seize the property from the homeowner after the homeowner has failed to make a certain number of monthly payments. Foreclosure suits are filed whether the homeowner still resides in the property, or has abandoned the property. If the homeowners remain in the property, they are evicted, usually after the trustee’s or sheriff’s sale/public auction and when the new owner (often the lending institution) files an eviction proceeding.  The procedure and timeline of a foreclosure action differ state-to-state.

Usually, a foreclosure proceeding happens more quickly than a short sale because the lender does not want the property sitting vacant, or to continue to be occupied by a borrower in default as they typically do not maintain the property and sometimes even damage the property purposefully while the foreclosure is pending. Of course, the mortgage lender will want to maximize return on the sale of the property once the foreclosure judgment is entered and so will move quickly once the initial foreclosure complaint is filed.

How a Short Sale Can Stop a Foreclosure Proceeding

There is no doubt that a homeowner who has allowed a foreclosure proceeding to conclude while doing nothing will take a hit to their credit score. Also, a foreclosure suit will remain on the credit report for seven years and it might take three or five years before a foreclosed homeowner will be lent mortgage funds again. 

Considering this, even if a foreclosure proceeding has been filed by the lender, a defaulting homeowner should take the opportunity to contact a real estate agent and their lender and find out if a short sale is a viable alternative to allowing the foreclosure to proceed to a conclusion.

By opening negotiations with the lender and listing a property at a short sale, a homeowner can avoid significant negative credit consequences and transfer the property to a new owner in an orderly, responsible manner. It’s worth a shot, and if you don’t ask – you don’t get!

After Short Sale: What To Do?

What Do I do about the deficiency on the mortgage? Do I have to pay for that?

Yes, unless you negotiated with the mortgage lender to have the deficiency forgiven. If you did, that amount may be reported by the mortgage lender to the IRS as income.

If you did not have the deficiency forgiven, the mortgage lender can and likely will commence collection efforts against you. If that happens, again, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can get the deficiency discharged as unsecured debt.